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Conflict Resolution Tips and Blog

Deliver a Sincere Apology in 3 Critical Steps

“I can have a short fuse at times … I can’t believe I actually went off like that… I might be right about what I felt, but I should have taken a half hour to think about it first.” – Dan Gilbert, Cleveland Cavaliers Owner
I love this story. In an interview with Forbes Magazine last year, Dan Gilbert discussed his conflict with LeBron James. You know, the famous one when LeBron announced in a not so nice way that he was leaving the Cavaliers and going to the Miami Heat. Gilbert admits that he “went off” in a very public manner. He thoughtfully recalls that receiving praise and accolades for his behavior kept him from really evaluating it for quite some time.
However, once he took the time to examine the scenario, he was forced to go within and discover a part of himself that needed some work. He learned some hard but good lessons about his emotional response. Doing the work prepared him to get past that embarrassing moment, reach out to LeBron and work things out. At that in-person meeting, the first words he said were, “We had five good years and one bad night.” Apology accepted.
The Key to Apologies
Apologies are hard work, even for those of us who don’t find it that difficult to apologize. Saying the words is the easier part. The difficulty lies in the work that we need to do in order to get us to the place to even realize that we need to apologize.
The key to apologies is knowing and remembering that in most conflicts, misunderstandings and feelings often set up the need for an apology. Be prepared to examine your own mindset, words, beliefs and actions whenever you are involved in a conflict because the apology may need to come from you.
So in preparation, let me arm you with three important steps.
Take Some Time to Examine
What was said by you and the other person either as a response or an initial statement is worth examining. What were you thinking at the onset and what feelings came up for you during and why? What was your behavior and the feelings driving it? Think about the fact that just because you are hurt doesn’t necessarily mean that you didn’t say or do something wrong.
Try to recapture the moment by yourself and listen for the meaning beneath their words and yours.
Kate O’Neill wrote in The Meaningful Manifesto:
“Meaning is the lens through which we understand our experiences and the link through which we connect with each other.”
Doing the work to understand the meaning of your actions and words allows you to leave room for the possibility that you may not know the true meaning of theirs.
Listen to That Inner Voice
When there is a need to apologize on our part, it often comes disguised as a feeling. People talk of feeling uncomfortable, embarrassed, shameful or guilty. If we listen through the feeling, we can hear that those are conditioned responses that are used to drown out our true selves. Society has taught us that apologies are bad and make us look weak. Buying in to that belief takes us further away from the compassion that lies within.
Being connected to our true selves helps us understand that we all are wrong at many points in our lives and acknowledging it is a necessary part of personal growth.
My friend and colleague, Achim Nowak in his advice to leaders beautifully states,
“Self Awareness is not a luxury item, it is a daily practice. Impactful leaders are mindful and willing to self-correct.”
So are impactful people.
Say What Really Needs to Be Said
If you noticed in the Dan Gilbert story, he didn’t share that he said the actual words “I apologize” or “I’m sorry.” Acknowledging that there was wrong, what went wrong and your desire to correct it and move forward is often enough.
With so much negative stigma attached to saying the words “I’m sorry” and “I apologize,” you may not want or need to lead with that.
People want to know that they have been heard and that you can recognize your wrong from their point of view. Starting there can lower the tension enough to allow you to have meaningful conversation. Saying the words at the end can even be more heartfelt because understanding and forgiveness have been established.
The end result for Dan Gilbert was reported as an extra $100 million for getting LeBron back, but the real benefit was a relationship repaired and personal growth for both.
What will the benefits be for you?
If you want to get better at this and finally do something about resolving the conflicts in your life so that you can have better health, meaningful relationships, a more peaceful home and work environment (which also means more money!!!)…
Then JOIN US in my 6 Month Conflict Coaching Community
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7 Twisted Ways to Apologize

A recent Time Magazine cover revealed the newest hit in the business world, something called IQ or personality assessment tests. Apparently they are all the rage with HR departments for hiring, rating, evaluating and promoting. For example, they ask questions like… Are you shy? Do you enjoy giving parties? Do you fantasize about being famous? A question that seems to be all the rage with all of you loyal readers of my blog is… How good are you at apologizing?

Many of you answered a resounding, Not Good At All! I actually had to chuckle when I received the numerous emails, phone calls and even a text from so many of you confessing that getting an apology out of you when others don’t apologize to you is harder than extracting wisdom teeth. Wow! Now that is exciting!

As the late, great Joan Rivers (whose humor I adored, say what you will) would say, “Can We Talk?!”

I have learned to apologize and am still no expert in that department but I find it to be liberating. It certainly is a lesson on how to be vulnerable, which wouldn’t be so hard if the world would just help us remember that we are here to make mistakes. Therefore, apologies are a part of our language of being human.

With that said, I have experienced some head-shaking, “you’ve got to be kidding me”, “did they really just say that,” twisted apologies in my day.
Twisted Apology #1 – You Couldn’t Look At Me and Tell?

Oh yes… because I am a conflict resolution strategist and studied body language in college, I ought to know just by looking at you that you are delivering your apology through your gifted mental telepathy skills. Yes, reading body language is essential but actually hearing the words… Priceless.

Twisted Apology #2 – Make Them Feel Guilty For Their Feelings

An ex-boyfriend once said, “So you really gonna put me through this right? You are gonna keep looking at me like that until I say it? And this is all because your feelings are hurt? I mean you can’t even take a joke?” Ten minutes later as I was walking away he screamed, “SO YOU’RE REALLY GONNA MAKE ME SAY IT? FINE, SORRY!” My response… NO.

Twisted Apology #3 – Never Actually Say It But Act Like You Did

I used to have a friend who was trained in the clever art of making you think you were losing your mind. After a heated argument during which she stormed out, she showed up the next day smiling as if nothing had happened between us. When I asked for an apology, she stared me in the face and declared, “I said sorry, weren’t you listening?”

We argued a lot during this friendship. By the fourth time this happened and after actually getting my hearing checked, I asked for my apology in writing. Apparently, she didn’t hear me. Friendship over.

Twisted Apology #4 – Blame it on Your Ethnicity, Race, Age, Sex

In this category, I have heard it all. A long time boyfriend told me often, “You’re lucky. I’m a Latin man. We don’t say sorry easy. I must really love you.” Mind you, he still never really said sorry. Apparently, this technique is pretty popular among many demographics. I heard it used constantly by the adults in my life when I was growing up.

“I’m too old to apologize. Grownups don’t apologize to children. I’m a Black mother… I don’t owe you an apology, the world owes me one!” The secret to this is knowing that this is as close to an apology as you are going to get.

Twisted Apology #5 – Cyrano DeBergerac It

When I was in high school, my boyfriend and I were having a heated argument on the phone. At some point, I realized my part in the argument and apologized, I’ll admit reluctantly. When he accepted without offering up one of his own, I pressed him. “Why can’t you just apologize?” No response. After ten minutes of arguing, he shouted, “Fine, you want to know why?” The next voice I heard was his Mother’s. “It’s my fault, I raised him that way, but baby He is Sorry”… I Agreed!

Twisted Apology #6 – Deliver A Speech With It

A co-worker who I had a lot of friction with was gifted at making me feel sorry I ever asked her to apologize . First of all, it would take her forever to say it and when she did, it never ended. After giving up and going back to my desk, she would storm in to my office and deliver this rant. “Fine, you want me to say sorry? Fine. I AM Sorry. You happy now? I said it. I Am Sorry. You just have to be right. You have to have the last word. Well, fine then. I apologize. Okay? Happy now?” And all I kept thinking was where is that music they play at the Oscars to cut people off when they are going on wayyyyy too long?

Twisted Apology #7 – Intentionally Tell Them Off And Then Apologize

I have had some people in my life who I have just had to smile, shake my head and love. From teens I have worked with to family and friends, I know people who love drama. These people just cannot hold their tongue. They have to tell you what they think of you, full force, no holding back. They would look at me and say, “I know I’m wrong, but I can’t help it. I just have to tell them off. I’ll apologize later.” I think Taylor Swift said it best. “Bandaids don’t fix bullet holes, you say sorry just for show.” That’s an apology that no one wants to hear.

Let me hear from you on your favorite Twisted Apology. Tune in next time for tips on how to offer up a sincere apology.