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The Six Step Apology (Pt 2)

Business Discussionby Chuck

One of the hardest things for me to say is, “I was wrong.”

I’m pretty good at deflecting things.  Just like the Starship Enterprise (NCC-1701 for all you geeks out there) I have my force shield which deflects attacks.  When things get emotional and I become afraid, then I tend to employ blame, justification, and a whole host of other tools to keep from getting to the truth: “I was wrong.”

I don’t think I’m the only one that struggles with this.  Genesis records how Adam and Eve used blame.

Adam blamed, “The woman you gave me!”
Eve deflected, “The snake tricked me!”

I get the same result that they did: Broken relationships, missed opportunities for restoration, and loss of dignity.

Henry Cloud, in his book “Necessary Endings,” says there are three general kinds of people:

  • Wise
  • Foolish
  • Evil

Wise people learn – whether it is from other people, their mistakes or whatever source.  The foolish are the ones that deflect responsibility and accountability.  Evil people are those out to hurt and destroy.  Most of us aren’t evil but I think when it comes to the area of how we react when we hurt others, most of us act foolishly.

Once we accept responsibility great things can happen.  And so the second step in the Six Step Apology is key because it establishes ownership and sets the stage for restoration:

Acknowledge the Offense.  “I did _______ and it caused _______.”

I was wrong.

So now we have two steps in place.  Let me give you an example of how this can play out when talking with kids, spouse, co-workers, and everyone else you may hurt.

When I said, “You keep messing things up” I could see that it really hurt you.  I was wrong in saying that.  It isn’t true.

I said, “Can’t you do anything right?” in a really loud voice and I can tell that my voice scared you and my words made you feel really small.  I was wrong to use a loud voice and to tell you something which isn’t true.

I shouted at you when you spilled your milk on the table and told you that you are clumsy.  Now you think you are clumsy and that I won’t trust you again.  I was wrong to shout and not pay enough attention to see that it was an accident.

I think you can tell from these interactions that a key to starting the apology is to capture accurately what happened, what it caused and to clearly state your role in it.

I was wrong.

You might be wondering how to teach your spouse or kids to do this more meaningful apology, too.  Rather than focusing on teaching them the apology, focus on modeling the apology.  They will learn by what you do more than by what you say.  Second, stop insisting that they perform weak apologies.  Work on helping them build empathy and ownership.

What I can tell you is that just doing these first two steps goes a long way toward healing broken relationships but we aren’t done yet.  In part 3 we’ll actually use the word “apologize.”

Question: How have you seen situations improve simply by taking responsibility for your part in the situation?