How to Really Apologize

A few years ago, I attended a Bat Mitzvah.  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.

Kids are quick to say “My bad” or, even worse, “Oops.”

Here’s the definition of oops: An exclamation; used to show recognition of a mistake or minor accident, often as part of an apology.

The problem is they’re missing out on that last part “often as part of an apology.” “Oops” alone doesn’t cut it.

In my opinion, I think the rabbi went a little too easy on the congregation. If today’s youth is like this, where exactly are they learning it from?

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

For instance, take Lance Armstrong, or Mark McGuire or anybody else that has been caught up in performance enhancing drugs.

It seems that all 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 up to the situation.

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

Very rarely, we 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, there was a time when a few of my managers and salespeople at work didn’t make their productivity goals for the month.

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

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

When you think about it 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, and not own them?

How does not owning a mistake help anyone going forward?

Is it all a matter of trust?


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