The Great Effects of Apologizing

Original Spanish version published in El Comercio newspaper (Peru) on October 1, 2016

What are your weaknesses? What would your boss say if we asked him or her about your faults? What are your areas of opportunity for development? What do your colleagues think about this subject? All of these questions give us an opportunity to know ourselves, but also to put ourselves down.

“I can’t think of any of my shortcomings right now,” is an answer that, though hard to believe, I have heard too many times. This is because many people improvise their answers –in interviews, for example– without any idea of the impact that their words have on their professional brand. They do not prepare to speak transparently and honestly about their weaknesses, while not damaging their professional image.

Others, also without any preparation whatsoever, yield to that strange need to “confess” everything and offer a long list of flaws, weaknesses, or deficiencies that contribute nothing to their profile. Others refer to their weaknesses as if they were funny or something they could not help: “what can I say, I am terrible with numbers”. Even worse, they try to justify them (“the problem is that they didn’t teach English at my school”) or blame other people or circumstances (“the company doesn’t train me”).

By this, they show they do no self-examination and make no effort to know themselves, their weaknesses, and their professional profile. Above all, they show that they do nothing to have a more adult and mature relationship with themselves and their work in order to evolve, grow, and remain relevant and competitive, and therefore, happy.

I often see that many of us have the same slack attitude towards our mistakes: when we say something inappropriate, rude, or unkind and offend someone. The same is true when we fail to keep a promise or fulfill a commitment, we do a bad job, or we do not thank a favor soon enough, among many other mistakes we make on a daily basis. Most of the time we try to hide them or deny them, minimize them, justify them, or even blame someone else before fully accepting our responsibility and the consequences of our mistakes. And the thought of apologizing is annoying: we feel that it makes us weaker, jeopardizes our position of “power”, exposes us, makes us vulnerable, or a thousand other excuses we make in order not to apologize.

A timely and genuine apology is essential at work and even more so in our personal and family life. It has a major effect on others and oneself. But apologizing well is hard and requires courage and self-confidence. With time, I learned that the same steps that work for speaking about our weaknesses or flaws frankly and honestly –but with a contained impact– also work for making sincere apologies: identification, acceptance, correction, improvements made, and awareness of latency.

So, I start by acknowledging my mistake and genuinely accepting that I made a mistake. Then I express my most sincere apologies for any consequences and emphasize the efforts I will make or am making to try not to repeat the mistake. It is never easy for me to apologize, but practice is helping me to do it better each time…

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