Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Apology ABCs

I hate making mistakes. But I am human, so I sometimes make them. If I am lucky, my mistakes have no significant impact on anyone else. Inevitably, however, I sometimes make a mistake that adversely affects someone else. In such a situation, I have a simple little ABC mnemonic I use to remind myself of the right things to do. Perhaps you will find them useful some day when you have made a mistake that affects someone else.
  • Apologize for your mistake. Be specific. Don't just say "I am sorry", say something like "I am sorry I broke your table lamp." Mean what you say.

  • Back up the situation to what it was like before your mistake. Undo what was improperly done, right what was wronged, repair what can be repaired, replace what can be replaced.

  • Compensate for what can not be undone. The most obvious compensation is money, but this is not always the most appropriate. Sometimes a little more time or attention is better. Be careful when making compensation. Don't assume you know what would be appropriate compensation without talking to the injured party. You may end up insulting them and making the situation worse. Note that an honest apology will often mean you will be asked for much less in the way of other compensation, or none at all.

  • Desist from doing the same thing again. You may not be able to guarantee you will never make the same mistake again, but you can try to figure out how to change your behavior to minimize that possibility. If you broke the lamp because you were playing frisbee in the living room, don't play frisbee in the living room any more. If you were late for a date or appointment because you got caught up in some other activity and forgot the time, start using an alarm on your watch or phone. Demonstrate that you are trying not to repeat the error.

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