“Never ruin an apology with an excuse.” – Kimberly Johnson
Have you ever received an apology that wasn’t really an apology, that actually made you feel worse after receiving it?
“I’m sorry I yelled at you, but you had been acting like a jerk all day!”
“I apologize for ignoring you, but you always seem to go on and on about stuff.”
In fact, do you even remember the last time that you received just a basic apology without the qualifying “but” at the end? “But I was tired, overworked, didn’t have the right information, etc.”
Perhaps you recall making such a snarky apology yourself. Probably not, although you probably have. We seem to have an unlimited ability to justify our own behavior.
In their book Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me), Carol Tavris and Eliot Aronson examine the way the brain is wired for justification. This is not an excuse for bad behavior, instead a call for watching ourselves more closely since we’re not attuned to our own mishaps (In fact, we’re more likely to call them mishaps when we mess up and something more graphic when someone else is the culprit.)
In truth, people don’t much care if you were busy, overworked, or saddled with stupid colleagues; they just want the problem fixed. And in personal relationships, they just want to get back on track, which doesn’t happen when you apologize by blaming them for your outburst.
As in most things, the simpler the apology, the better. So this week, try a “I’m sorry” or “I messed up.” And then just stop. No “but” allowed!