I was driving across the Napier-Taupo road recently, on my way to compete in the NZ 10km Kayak Champs. The stretch across the Rangataiki Plains gave me time to sit back, listen to some music, and do some reflecting. The stereo was playing k.d.lang, hymns of the 49th parallel, and a line from Leonard Cohen’s song Bird on a Wire caught my attention; “If I, if I have been unkind, I hope you can just let it go by.” Here we have Leonard wanting someone to let him off the hook without him having to take responsibility or do anything redeeming, and this got me thinking about the ineffective apologies I have heard over time. A couple of my favourites are “I am sorry you feel that way” and “I didn’t mean to upset you”. In both cases the implication is that the hurt party shouldn’t feel upset and should forgive and forget without the offending party having to do anything.
I have a process for giving an effective apology that I teach to my clients, and it’s one that they find very useful and at times has provided a crucial breakthrough in their relationship struggles. So I decided to write this up in the form of a guide titled “Three Steps to an Effective Apology.” You can get your free copy here
P.S. Once you have read the report, come back to this blog and leave a comment by clicking the Leave a reply button at the top of the post, I would love to hear from you.
A few days ago my partner asked me if I would be OK to talk to somebody else in our extended family who was worried about experiencing performance anxiety during an upcoming exam. I said I was OK talking to them, and left it at that. A couple of days later I was surprised when my partner asked if I had talked to the person yet; and she was disappointed when I told her I hadn’t. What was going on here? It might be obvious to you as you read this right now, but it wasn’t to us.
This would have been a great place to start an argument, a nice little merry-go-round of “you said/promised/agreed” and “no I didn’t, you didn’t ever ask me to ….” etc. Fortunately we both kept our cool and realized there had been some kind of misunderstanding and after some discussion we figured out that when I said I was OK talking to the other person she thought I was agreeing to go ahead and do that, whereas I thought I was only saying I was OK to talk to them and that they would then approach me some time later.
I thought this was a great example of a miscommunication that could have been averted if I had thought to ask “What do you mean when you ask if I would be OK to…., are you asking if I will do it, or just checking how I feel about the possibility?”
I came across the video below recently and I think its a great little story of a couple sorting out a similar misunderstanding. What do you think? I’d really enjoy your thoughts on this. please leave a comment.