“An apology is the superglue of life. It can fix just about anything.”
~Lynn Johnston

The other day a client was telling me about a relationship with her colleague that was, in her words, broken beyond repair. The two of them had been close, or at least close enough. Work friend close and dependable colleagues. And then one day my client had, with the best intentions, done something that her colleague had completely misunderstood. And had taken offense at.

Things went sour and then became worse and worse. My client didn’t know what to say or what to do. She didn’t know how to repair the relationship, and she began to get angry at her colleague for misunderstanding her and judging her, and then to feel justified in her anger. The two of them still were not really speaking and certainly weren’t collaborating. And the team, and their output, was suffering.

It was time to do something to rectify the situation.

I asked my client what she needed in the situation. After much thought, she told me that she needed her colleague to be willing to listen to her with an open mind. To at least consider that my client hadn’t meant any harm by what she’d done. And to apologize for taking things so seriously and making things so bad.

“Ah…” I said to my client. “You want an apology.” My client looked at me and then looked away. She’d known me long enough that she knew what was coming. “What do you think your colleague might want?” I asked.

My client didn’t have to answer. We both knew that she knew what my point was.

“Did you ever apologize?” I asked my client. She shook her head no. “Do you think you might want to apologize?” I asked my client. She shrugged her shoulders…then shook her head yes.

Sometimes we take so long to apologize, if we apologize at all. We justify our reluctance, saying it won’t really make a difference. Or they should apologize first. Or we didn’t mean any harm and they misunderstood us. But I’ve found, and witnessed, that an apology – a true, heartfelt apology – can work wonders. It can repair the unrepairable and rectify the unrectifiable. It can fix just about anything.

How have you seen apologies work?
Please leave a comment.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

If you want to learn to apologize, or to learn to want to apologize, contact Lisa at lkohn@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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