Some people don’t know how to apologize. They can behave really badly towards another human being without giving it a second thought. These people are known as sociopaths.
But even normal people find it difficult to make an apology sometimes. This is even truer when money is involved. I don’t know about you, but when I blow it; my knee-jerk reaction is to look for fault in others. Thankfully I don’t do this all the time and I rarely act on this. It’s just a thought but it does disturb me and it happen more than I’d like. I suppose it’s a natural drive for self-preservation.
Natural or not, that’s an instinct that is outdated and expensive. Let’s look at the real cost for refusing to apologize when you make a financial mistake. They’ll well consider how to overcome that character defect.
Problems you create for yourself when you don’t clean up your mess.
I can’t speak for you of course, but in my case, I get a knot in my stomach when I have some part in creating a conflict with another person. I may not realize what I’ve done at the time. I may not even realize that I’ve done anything wrong. But invariably, I get that uneasy feeling. And that’s an inescapable signal that I have made a mistake. You might share that symptom as well.
Of course stomach irritability is only the tip of the iceberg. When you refuse to own up when you fail another person, you jeopardize the relationship with them and others. You may feel uncomfortable around them so you’ll avoid contact with mutual friends and relations. You cut yourself off. That’s not good for your soul and it’s not good for business. It’s absolutely terrible for your relationship. And it gets more complicated.
You are also cut off from yourself. When you take the low road and try to hide some part of yourself from others, you lose a little self-esteem. At least that’s been my experience. And if you are thinking of getting married to someone and one of you hasn’t learned how to apologize yet – you must master this skill before taking another step.
But by far the greatest cost of refusing to apologize is that you forfeit the opportunity to learn. If you’ve made a mistake but are unwilling to scrutinize your actions, you’ll likely continue making that same mistake over and over again. That’s a set up for lots of burned personal and business relationships in your future. Pretty expensive problem…right?
The Solution – How to Apologize To Someone
1. Become Human
Look around. We are all human and we make mistakes. It’s called being human. We recognize that when it comes to other people of course. But we rarely give ourselves the same latitude that we allow others. We don’t know how to forgive ourselves.
Give yourself permission to be imperfect and somebody who makes mistakes. But remember that you are worthwhile and wonderful despite the flaws. Realize that it’s OK to make mistakes.
2. Find Your Fault
Just because you did something wrong doesn’t mean the other person is completely innocent. You owning up to your side of the problem doesn’t let the other person off the hook. But his failures are his problems – not yours. If he wants to live with doing harm to others without apologizing for it, that’s his issue.
Go through the conflict step-by-step and find all the things you could have done better but didn’t. Write them down.
Don’t judge yourself and don’t defend yourself. You don’t have to do either. You are going to be fine once you get on the other side of this. Remember that this isn’t about you as a person. It’s about something you did.
Continue writing by jotting down how you imagine the other party felt as a result of your lapse. If you were in his shoes, would you be angry, sad or disappointed? Be thorough and honest.
And let’s put some numbers behind this work too. If the other party suffered a financial loss, what was it? Don’t worry. We are just exploring right now – not writing checks.
4. Share with a friend.
Call your accountability partner. Share what you wrote. Get her feedback. Once you are clear on how you contributed to the problem and all the damage this may have done to another person, you are ready for the next step.
5. Be willing to make it right.
At this point you are clear on your part of the problem. Now the question is what are you willing to do to clean it up?
Keep in mind that you have done all this work for your own benefit. You want you learn, stop feeling uneasy and get your self-esteem back. The more effort you invest in cleaning up this problem the more you help yourself. So stretch your willingness and vulnerability. It is worth it.
Of course, if there is a legal or liability issue, I strongly suggest that you speak with your attorney before taking any further steps. But assuming you’re not talking about something akin to the Valdez oil spill or the Lincoln assassination, you’re probably safe to continue to the next level.
When you apologize to the other party, admit what you’ve done and what you imagine the harm suffered financially and emotionally. Don’t use this as an opportunity to emotionally tar and feather yourself. Just be honest and empathetic. If you are anxious about this step, practice a few times with your accountability partner. But here’s a hint – don’t say anything about what the other person did wrong even though he or she may have contributed greatly to the problem. Their part in the conflict is for them to clean up – not for you.
7. Let it go.
The other person might be gracious about your apology or might use it as an opportunity to rub it in. Whatever. Don’t worry about it. Remember, you aren’t’ doing this for anyone but yourself. You certainly aren’t doing it because you want a certain outcome with this other person.
I might be a pessimist but my experience tells me that very few people are really willing to completely forgive. They might say they do. But if there is a conflict and money is involved, the trust is gone and it’s not coming back. No matter. You probably can’t do anything about that. Let it go.
Once you’ve gone through these steps you’ve demonstrated that you are a high-caliber person. You’ve regained your self-esteem and you’ve learned something. The chances are much higher that you’ll avoid repeating this error.
With so much to gain and so little to lose, what’s stopping you from making an apology?