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San Diego
Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Saying ‘I’m Sorry’ Can Help

Question: How do you say I’m sorry in business?


In today’s business world, it seems a lot of us still think we’re off the hook when it comes to apologizing. But everybody makes mistakes, and the more we hone our skills at delivering apologies, the more likely we will be to mend damaged relationships that might otherwise never recover.

Whether it’s a missed deadline, a flawed product, or a billing error, somebody got injured, and even if the offending party is savvy enough to acknowledge the gaffe, there’s far more to an effective apology than just, “Whoops, Sorry.”

When your turn to beg pardon arrives, there are certain steps you must follow to complete an effective apology.

Own the problem: Even if it was a representative or underling who blundered, accept responsibility personally. They took your company’s word that you were going to do what you said you were going to do. Attempts to lay the blame elsewhere will only make you look irresponsible , which is exactly what you are if you try such a dodge.

Step up to the plate. Say: “This is my responsibility. I will handle this personally.” And of course you must follow through on your commitment to personal attention, so be prepared to present your business card and offer your direct phone number to back up your pledge.

State specifically that you are “sorry” and that you “apologize.” Your ability to be direct and specific will convince the injured party you understand the gravity of the situation and can empathize with them in the predicament you’ve perpetrated.

Explain in detail how and why the mistake will never happen again. Now you must do something. You must ferret out the cause of the mistake and change the policies, procedures, processes and/or people that either caused it or enabled it, and you must then present your analysis and the changes it has effected to the injured party.

Was it a computer glitch? If so, replace the system and show off the new equipment. Was it human error? Present the organizational chart that reveals new lines of authority. One way or another, you’ve got to prove that whatever went wrong once will never, ever go wrong again.

Written by Jim Tindaro, the chief executive officer of AM Strategies, a San Diego-based advertising agency.


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