How effective is an apology?

November 23, 2009

Thanks to butupa for the photo.

Think back to the last time you apologized to someone for a mistake you made. Consider your strategy for making that apology. Was it effective? Was the other person involved satisfied with how you handled the situation? An apology can be difficult to make; however, it is important to remember that an apology should be genuine and sincere. The effectiveness of an apology solely depends on the apologizer and how the apology is executed. In “Effective Apology: Mending Fences, Building Bridges, and Restoring Trust,” author John Kador wrote:

“An apology informed is good; an apology performed is better.”

I think that John Kador makes a valid point through his statement. Instead of communicating through words, it is better to take action to show the effectiveness of your apology. You can take action by committing to an apology you make and showing the other person that you are trustworthy.

In “Public Relation Practices: Managerial Case Studies and Problems,” Allen H. Center and Patrick Jackson evaluated the effectiveness of an apology involving the American Chemistry Council. The chemical group was being scrutinized by the public for its lack of health and safety awareness in the work field. The organization apologized effectively by listening and recognizing the perceptions and fears of the public, owning up to any performance problems, and taking action to correct the problems. The American Chemistry Council encouraged open lines of communication between the organization and the public through an initiative known as Responsible Care®. The global initiative practiced currently in 53 national associations requires companies to be open and transparent with their stakeholders.

Next time you are put in a situation where you need to make an apology, stop and think about the effectiveness of how you present your apology. If your apology is not genuine or sincere, is it worth apologizing at all? Remember that an apology is more effective if action is taken. As the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.”


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