3 steps to the perfect apology

What do you do when "I'm sorry" doesn’t cut it?
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Oct 14, 2010
By dvm360.com staff

“Sorry.”

“My bad.”

“Whoops.”

There are dozens of ways to tell your veterinary colleagues that you’re sorry, but only one way surefire way to win forgiveness in five minutes or less. And Laurie Puhn, relationship expert and author of the new book Fight Less, Love More (Rodale Books, 2010), nailed that way down to a science.

Her advice was originally geared toward couples but can easily be adapted for veterinary team members. For example, Puhn’s original example of how to say you’re sorry and mean it revolved around a spouse running late to a romantic dinner. Here, it’s tweaked for a team member showing up late to work.

Step 1: Go big or go home
Don’t downplay your mistake. Instead emphasize. Puhn suggests replacing comments that only further irritate others, such as “It’s no big deal,” with those that stress your misstep. Puhn recommends phrases such as, “I made a huge error,” or “It was really awful of me to do that.” These types of comments go a long way to pacifying those offended.

Step 2: Address feelings
Often those who are waiting feel disrespected or ignored by your tardiness. Don’t sweep this resentment under the rug. Instead, admit that your actions were rude or disrespectful, even if that wasn’t your intention. Some people can’t forgive until they can understand why you did what you did. So, when possible, explain the reason behind your mistake. For example, “I’m sorry I’m late. There’s construction on the highway.”

Step 3: Make reparations
Close your apology by telling co-workers what you plan to do to fix the damage done. In cases where little or nothing can be done, such as being late to work, outline how you’ll avoid making the mistake in the future. For example, maybe you’ll start leaving home earlier to allow for traffic delays.

For more advice on making amends, check out the related links below.