By Barb Paszyn 

I took a Brené Brown course on apologizing a few months ago. Yes, an apology course. I didn’t think I had any room to improve in this area since I grew up in Canada – the land of the ubiquitous “sorry.” But I was wrong. I’ve since noticed that I’ve gotten better at apologizing.

Not surprisingly, it’s also helped me in my marketing research career.

These are the 5 elements I have become more mindful of when apologizing that I think everyone should be aware of:

  1. Never underestimate the power of an apology! An apology can do a lot, from changing the way someone thinks of you to altering the energy in a room. We should never take this power for granted and we should be mindful of when an apology is necessary. 
  2. Only apologize when you mean it. People can tell when you’re not “sorry,” so if you’re not –don’t apologize. Otherwise, you can make the situation worse than it initially was.
  3. Don’t OVER apologize. Once or twice is enough! You don’t want to look insincere. 
  4. Don’t get defensive. Be selfless. Apologizing is not about you. It’s about the person you’re apologizing to! If you’re simply doing it because you want to feel better and you still think you were justified in your actions, then you’re at the risk of sounding insincere and forced. You shouldn’t expect anything from the apology, including forgiveness. Again, remember – it’s not about you. 
  5. Get rid of the word “but.” Nothing good ever starts with the word “but.” A sincere apology doesn’t need this word. It negates the apology because you’re now shifting the focus onto something else that you feel explains why you’re apologizing. This shouldn’t matter if you’re truly sorry.

So, you might be wondering… what does apologizing have to do with our marketing careers?

Well, it has many applications. We all have to apologize at some point in our career, whether with colleagues, suppliers, or clients. Knowing when and how to say ‘sorry’ will improve your relationships and make everyday work life a little less stressful.

Once we’ve apologized, we must then be accountable for our mistakes. This is how we show we genuinely care, and only by acknowledging our failures can we learn how to fix them. This will encourage a healthy work culture, something you can learn more about from this article on workplace accountability.

And, of course, we’re in Canada! As much as apologizing comes naturally to us, we need to ensure we truly mean it, as I’ve stated in a previous post: to err is human.