Should we ask someone to apologize?

How to properly apologize

Everyone makes mistakes - yes, we know that firsthand ;-). The important thing is to apologize for this. But how do you write excuses in such a way that the other person will gladly accept them?

First of all, it depends on the attitude with which you apologize. Half-hearted apologies or apologies in which you only assume part of the blame, but blame the rest of the blame on others (perhaps even to the person who pointed out your mistake to you), often leave a bland aftertaste. Or even anger.

Another point: don't write I apologize, rather Please excuse me.Why this small but crucial difference in formulation? Because you cannot absolve yourself of your “guilt”. Only your counterpart can do that - if you ask them to.

This is how you write apologies that are gladly accepted

  1. Summarize in your own words what you apologize for.
  2. Take responsibility for the mistake.
  3. Offer a solution or suggest redress.
  4. Make sure you do everything you can to prevent this from happening again.

1. Confirm what it is about

Summarize in your own words what it is about. You can pick up key words that the other person uses. This shows that you have understood what is important to the other. Suppose your customer writes:

We waited two hours for our rental car to be handed over. However, this should suddenly go very quickly. When we asked for time to briefly check the car ourselves, your employee left us and said if we found no defects, we should just sign and hand the contract over to the office. When we checked, however, we found that many defects were not documented. We then had to wait another hour for your employee, who was only ready after a long discussion to include the damage we discovered in the handover contract. This behavior is unprofessional and we lost half a day of vacation as a result.

Take up the issue and show that you understand what your customers are about:

It took a disproportionately long time to hand over your rental car. You also lost additional time due to the behavior of our employee. We understand that you were upset about this. After all, your vacation is for your relaxation and should not be overshadowed by such inconveniences.

2. Take responsibility

Take full responsibility for what went wrong. Even if it wasn't you personally.

We apologize for waiting so long for your rental car and especially for the behavior of our employee. This was rude and unprofessional to you.

Even if the other side is partly to blame: Be generous and refrain from emphasizing this and absolutely insist that the other side is partly to blame. It pays to be generous, especially towards customers. Avoid justifications or innuendos

Confess that the mistake is yours and take your counterpart's feelings (e.g. anger) seriously. Especially when they are explicitly stated.

3. Offer a solution

If the problem someone complained about persists, offer a solution to it. Clearly, if someone has suffered damage due to your mistake, replace them. That should go without saying. In order to really please the other person and to compensate for the inconvenience, think about what you can add as a little "extra" on top.

Sometimes damage is of an immaterial nature - your customer or colleague, for example, was annoyed. Then think about how you can make the extra something bigger: perhaps with a bouquet of flowers or a free service from you.

4. Ensure that you learn from your mistakes

Write to your customer how you eliminated the error or what you will change in the future. This is how she realizes that her complaint has really made a difference.

Of course, there are also mistakes that you cannot guarantee will not happen again. If a reader points out a misspelling or broken link, we apologize. However, we cannot guarantee 100% that it will not happen again (after all, we are human).

Last but not least: Thank you again for being pointed out to your mistake - this may turn your mistake into a wonderful collaboration.

Best regards

Nadja Buoyardane and Franziska Nauck

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