Why Sorry Isn’t Enough and What People Really Want to Hear

What do you do when you fuck up? Do you apologize? Do you get defensive? Do you try to minimize it by avoiding the fuck up altogether? How do you handle it when you or your company screw up?

There is only one way to respond when you make a mistake in sales or business, shit in life, in general, and most people don’t do it right.

The majority of people (a simple majority it seems) apologize. These folks are the best of the worst. They apologize, but that’s all. They say they’re sorry and move on.  Unfortunately, an apology isn’t what people want.

Others get defensive and try to defend why they did what they did or even worse, try to argue why it wasn’t their fault or why it’s not a big deal. This response just pisses people off.  It’s designed to address the offenders issues, not the offended.

Still others just try to deflect responsibility altogether by dismissing the incident and not even responding. Their goal is to move past the offense or issue as quickly as possible addressing neither the issue or the impact.

These responses don’t work and only serve to make the situation worse.

There is only one thing people want from you when you screw up. They want you to acknowledge the impact or effect your actions had on them. It’s that simple.

People want acknowledgment.  People want to know that you get it. They want to know you understand the negative impact you had on them. They want to know you are aware of your actions.

If you screw up and forget to show up for a demo, saying sorry doesn’t carry half the weight as acknowledging the fact, you wasted your customers time and how that impacted them.

When an airline is delayed, the pilot’s apology, gives us little comfort. In many cases, it just pisses us off more. But, when she comes on the intercom and says, “I know we’ve caused many of you to miss your connections. I know that many of you have been traveling all day and just want to get to your destination. We know you want to get home, start your vacation or get to your destination, and we’re doing everything we can to make that happen. We know it sucks to get stuck at an airport.” We feel better. The mere fact that someone acknowledges us and our feelings makes it better.

When a customer calls you and is upset, don’t explain why, don’t get defensive, don’t try and tell them why things happened and why it’s not your fault.  Just acknowledge the impact you, your organization, or your company had on them and do it with empathy. It will make all the difference.

People want to know you’re in it with them and letting them simply know you are in it by acknowledging them does exactly that.

The world would be a much better place if we all spent a little less time apologizing and more time acknowledging.

What do you say?  You in?