How to Really Apologize

Last week I was at a Bat Mitzvah and the rabbi gave a sermon on one problem with today’s youth: they don’t own up to their mistakes enough. They don't know how to really apologize.

Usually, kids just say “My bad” or, even worse, “Oops.”

Here’s the definition of oops:

Exclamation: Used to show recognition of a mistake or minor accident, often as part of an apology.

It’s that last part they're losing: “often as part of an apology.” “Oops” alone shouldn’t cut it.

But I think the rabbi went a little too easy on the congregation. If kids are like this, where are they learning it from?

It seems these days that too many people who have done wrong act like it was a total accident. It was something that just happened. It was something they weren’t really responsible for.

Take Lance Armstrong, or Mark McGuire, or John Edwards - or any number of politicians.

It seems that too often, they read a prepared statement that amounts to “Oops,” and then they expect that we’ll all move on. There’s not enough owning of the situation.

Shouldn’t these people explain what they learned and make an effort to make whole all the people they hurt and the industry they damaged?

We rarely hear: “I am fully responsible, and deeply sorry. I am going to do everything I can to rectify the situation. I promise to learn from this, and I promise it will never happen again.”

And sometimes we don’t even get the “Oops.”

For instance, last month, a few of my managers and salespeople at work didn’t hit their February numbers.

That’s fine – every month can’t be perfect. But I would have liked it if a few of them at least came to me voluntarily and said, “My bad. Here’s what I learned. Here’s how I’m gonna make up for it next month.”

I like to say, “It’s not what happens to you, but what you do with what happens.”

I mean, a mistake can actually be a launching pad for future success. It's nothing to run from.

When did it become fashionable to ignore mistakes, to not own them?

How does not owning a mistake help anyone going forward?

Is it all a matter of trust?


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