How To Apologize For A Mistake Professionally: 14 Incredible Steps
Have you made a mistake recently and you are looking for how best to apologize in a professional way? Look no more! I will tell you how to go about it.
There are no doubts that we are all humans and we are bound to make some mistakes once in a while but the question is; how do you apologize after you have made that mistake?
Naomi Steve, an office accountant, had a lot of work on her table to attend to.
She has to prepare the salary budget for the month which is very paramount. The staff must be unfailingly paid the following week.
While attending to this, her boss gave her a presentation she must prepare on behalf of the company for a bank.
Suddenly, she became tensed and started working under pressure. After about 30 minutes of working on the presentation, the M.D, Mr James, called her to report to his office immediately. Oops, she became agitated and angry.
Nevertheless, she had no choice but to obey. Forgetting she wore a moody face, she entered the office swiftly.
Mr James noticed her mood but overlooked it and started pointing out the mistakes she made in the previous work given. Naomi stood there looking aghast.
He was expecting her to apologize but she never uttered a word probably because she was overwhelmed by the huge mistakes.
The M.D was stunned at her behaviour and decided to give her some time to retrace her steps but Naomi forgot.
Lo and behold, she got back to the office on Monday morning and got a query letter from the secretary for lacking attention to critical details.
Do you have a situation close to that of Naomi’s? Don’t worry you are in the right place. Here are some tips to guide you.
1. Be courageous
In actual fact, it’s difficult to apologize. Yes, It takes some courage to admit that you are wrong.
Although quite a number of people might struggle to apologize because it is believed to mean vulnerability. However, taking a bold step to own up for the mistake you made is the best thing you can do to yourself.
Being scared or timid should be the last thing in the event of slipups made by you. If you think the person would be inconsiderate by making you feel worse, then you have to up your courage game.
Do not be moved by it. Just do your part and walk away. On the other hand, If you don’t take responsibilities for your mistakes, it will only show how timid you are.
2. Show Regret
An apology requires that you show regret for your actions. Not only should your face show it but you have to start with these magical words ‘I’m sorry’.
This statement melts the heart of the person you are apologizing to. Showing regret means you are showing remorse over your actions and when you are doing this, you have to be sincere.
Do not have an ulterior motive when trying to apologize rather be honest to yourself and also with the person involved.
For example “I am sorry for the way I acted the other day at the mall. I regret my actions, please forgive me”.
3. Take responsibility for your actions
Admit responsibility for your actions when you are wrong. Besides, the moment you know you are wrong should be the best time to imagine how you would feel if you were actually in the person’s shoes.
Hence, you have to let the person know that you really understand how you made her feel and you feel sorry for what you have done.
Prove to her that you take responsibility for your actions. This gives the person the opportunity to open up and communicate with you in a way that leads to the realization of her perception.
For example, you could say: ‘I know I hurt you and I know how embarrassed you felt especially when people blame you for what I caused’.
4. Do not make excuses
It is more likely to justify oneself before making an apology. You try to explain your actions but it eventually turns to excuses.
This will only weaken your apology. You may think this is helpful but it’s just like shifting part of the blame to something or someone else.
Don’t try to explain when your explanations are not demanded. Making excuses do not show that you are sincere in your apology.
Admitting responsibility without further explanation strengthens you. Do not say ‘It wasn’t my fault, I couldn’t just put up with the way you were supporting that lady in my presence’. Saying this means, you are giving excuses.
I am not disputing the fact that you have a reason for reacting the way you did but you don’t have to explain that except it is so critical not to. In that case, it should be done after an apology.
5. Try to compensate
Another way to apologize in a professional way is by compensation. Learn to compensate for the mistake done. Make it up to the individual to ensure successful alignment.
You could say this “If there is anything you want me to do in order to make it up to you, please let me know”. Nevertheless, do not make empty promises in the process of compensation.
If you get a request and you don’t follow through, it can do more harm than good therefore I would kindly advise you to cut your coat according to your size.
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6. Make a commitment that it won’t happen again
This is a very important tip. It assures the person that it won’t happen again. It shows that you are ready to change your behaviour and it helps to build trust in your relationship.
You can make this commitment by saying; “I promise you it won’t happen again and If you notice I’m about to do it again, please call my attention to it”.
When you make this kind of commitment, I must remind you that you have to stick to your words. Do not give room for people to question what you have said because this might tarnish your reputation and make the person doubt your trustworthiness. Be a man of your words.
7. Master your words
Another thing you can do if you are the shy or reserved type is write down what you want to say then master it or better still you can call a friend of yours and rehearse it in her presence before going to meet the individual.
This rehearsal builds your confidence and also prepares you for what to say. It helps your speech to flow well without stammering. However, do not sound like it’s a rehearsed statement so as not to look like a robot in the person’s eyes.
8. Be courteous and fair
An apology does not work with rudeness or insults. You need to carefully watch your manners when you are apologizing. Be fair in your speech. Do not aggravate the matter with your words or by trying to blame the person for your actions.
Reacting this way renders all your effort to win back the person futile. Rather say some soothing words that will comfort the individual and bring back your relationship. Make sure you are being fair in your apology to the person you have wronged.
9. Take the lead
You don’t need to wait for the person you have wronged to come to you to tell you how unhappy she feels by your actions when in actual fact; you know you have made a mistake.
Instead of waiting endlessly to justify yourself, why not take lead and shed some light on the situation so you can understand each other better. Always try to make the first move, you won’t lose anything but would make the person you have wronged see you as more mature.
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10. Be humble
Humility is an important part of apology you can’t afford to part with. You don’t exhibit pride when you are trying to apologize. If you do, then your apology is a waste of time. When you want to apologize, make sure you come down to the person’s level to do so effectively.
Asking for forgiveness or apologizing does not in any way mean you are throwing away your self-esteem, rather it gives you an upper hand in the relationship with the individual.
As a matter of fact, you will remain special in the person’s heart for a long time. Learn to be humble when you want to apologize. Do not look down on the person you have wronged no matter their status.
Apologies with conditions have a bit of pride in them such as:
- I am sorry if you felt that way (The guilt is put on the other person indirectly)
- I’m sorry if you took that the wrong way (Well, the blame is being silently transferred to the offended)
- I am sorry if that offended you. (If it offended the person, it’s likely to offend anyone in the person’s shoe)
11. Be Timely
Timeliness is an important part of an apology. Do not wait for a long time before you apologize. You have to be well-timed when it comes to an apology.
Do not wait for a perfect time and you need not give long stories that will bore the person in question or make the apology look like a long list of excuses. Your apology should be short, precise and perfect.
12. Use the Right words
When apologizing for a mistake, endeavour to use the right words. What you say goes a long way to make or mar your friendship or relationship.
A phrase as simple as “I sincerely apologize for my mistakes” could go a long way. Be careful of your choice of words when apologizing. Do not say words that will make him angry but soften his heart with the perfect words. Let your words heal.
Let’s put things in proper shape. Apologies should be unconditional i.e. without the word – if. Good examples are:
- I apologize for what I said the other time.
- I sincerely apologize for what I implied.
- Dear, I didn’t mean what I said, and I truly apologize for saying it.
- My friend, I was wrong and I am here to apologize.
13. Forgiveness may not be immediate
Sometimes, the person might not be ready to be on the same page with you immediately you apologize.
Do not try to rush, give her time to digest and ruminate over what you have said. To exemplify this, you could say “I know you might not be ready to forgive me, I quite understand. I know how it feels so I won’t rush you but I’ll give you plenty of time so you can see that I am already changing “.
Also, that the person is not ready to forgive at that point in time does not mean he is still disappointed. He might just need some space to breathe. With time, he will heal up and no longer feel hurt.
14. Forgive yourself
When you make an apology, try to strike a balance between taking full responsibility and taking too much responsibility.
Remember we are humans and have different perspectives to situations. People have different home structures, principles, exposures, lessons, anecdotes and pieces of upbringing.
Hence, if you have applied the aforementioned tips and it seems the person you hurt isn’t giving you a positive stance, you need to learn to forgive yourself. Yes, I said that because you have played your part and there’s nothing else to do.
If you have done a one-on-one apology and it’s not yielding much, I am sure sending someone on your behalf will do a lot less. Accept the fact that life is full of lessons, learn from the lesson it served you and try not to repeat it to someone else. Start working on your flaws and shortcomings.
The reason why people usually underestimate the act of apology is that it is often falsely assumed that the situation is less important.
The truth is, no matter how insignificant or unimportant the situation is, you have hurt someone and something has to be done to take that hurt away.
Don’t be quick to assume the person you have wronged is fine and has moved on. Whereas, he or she might be fuming inside and waiting for you to realize your mistake.
I have come to realize that no one is perfect, we all make mistakes and we are capable of hurting each other whether intentionally or not. That is why we need to always practise the best ways to apologize.
I am not disputing the fact that its a difficult task but its still the most effective way of bringing back trust in a relationship when you have acted wrongly.
The impact of apology opens a dialogue between you and the other person and you eventually understand each other better.
An apology is a two-edged sword that positively affects you and the other person. It restores dignity to the person you’ve hurt which will also help her not to blame herself. It will also boost your confidence, reputation and give you a sense of relief when you come out clean.
So, when last did you apologize for a mistake you unintentionally made?