Mending Relationships: 5 Steps to Artful Apologies
1 year ago Posted in: Blog, Emotional Development 0

As professionals and leaders, we all have opportunities to apologize when warranted. We make mistakes. We inadvertently offend another party. We also see opportunities to sympathize, which an artful apology can address, such as “so sorry for the rainy weather.” Studies have shown that rapport and trust increase after an artful apology over something you don’t control.

A skill in exhibiting relationship intelligence and graciousness, the ability to artfully apologize is vital to both parties – the apologizer and the injured party. Apologies build rapport and trust that help relationships in breakdown to achieve breakthroughs. They are very helpful in leading change when practices and norms are changing in a culture shift, and things are uncertain and feel complicated. Painful emotions can run high during such times, and it’s a leadership opportunity to acknowledge this difficulty with your teams by offering an apology.

Apologies communicate positive energy when the act is an authentic transmission of your intention to connect empathetically with another person. This positive energy can be felt by both parties and by all group members involved with the situation. Likewise, someone might try to apologize but not know how to connect the apology with genuine empathy. Authentic empathy determines the energy of the apology.

Here are some tips for artful apologies:

1. Ask yourself: “What is your intent behind your apology?”

Check into your purpose for it. Suppose you made a judgment error, for example. In that case, your intention may be to restore confidence in your ability to work trustfully with this person and regain their faith in your credibility. Overall, the purpose is to restore both parties to operate at the top of their games. It would help if you first attended to yourself to restore the relationship to a productive and aligned outcome.

2. Ask the other person what they thought and felt in the situation.

Center your intention on the injured person or group. Find out:

· The impact of what their experience has been.

· What is their belief system?

Learn what it would take from you to permit that person or group to heal from what your behavior left in its wake. Be quiet and listen – non-judgmentally.

3. Paraphrase what you heard them say to check your understanding and let them know you listened to their experience as they intended.

Paraphrasing communicates empathy. When one or more persons feel injured, there is a change in the state of the injured party – their attention springs to the tension and emotions that result from their reaction. These emotions might be anger, resentment, disappointment, or frustration. With a graceful apology, the state of both parties

elevates to a higher place. Words carry energy that can be like a knife that kills or gives renewal to life, doing the work we want and intend for them to do.

4. Let the injured party know how you feel, and ask them or the group what you might do to correct the situation.

In our diminished state, where painful or challenging emotions are loudest, we may feel reactive or hopeless. Reactions can lead us to make quick decisions or take actions to reduce our distress. We can wind up saying things in a way that we may later regret or that are not in our own or others’ best interests. Instead, we can use the information we learn to empower ourselves with reflection, self-inquiry and make empowered choices. With this mindset, apologize for the unintended impact of your action and communicate your commitment to correct the situation.

5. Check-in with yourself afterward to reflect on the situation.

· What have you learned? Determine what you can do or do differently to rectify or ameliorate the situation and others’ feelings in the future.

· If appropriate, revisit the person or group to let them know what to look for from you in the future. It will reinforce that you heard and considered their perspectives and feelings and lets them know what to look for in your behavior in the future.

An artful apology can build your leadership presence and credibility by demonstrating your relationship intelligence and willingness to learn.

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