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The Art and Science of Apologizing

Timing

When people make the common mistake of saying they’re sorry too quickly, they can miss a crucial step towards reconciliation.

If someone commits a serious transgression, it’s best to apologize only after the victim has had a chance to “yell and vent” and fully process the betrayal.

Apologies that come too late, like those that come too early, are likely to fail; the sweet spot is somewhere between the two.

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

The Art and Science of Apologizing

The Art and Science of Apologizing

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/02/how-to-apologize/470457/

theatlantic.com

4

Key Ideas

An apology

An apology is one of the most profound interactions two human beings can have with one another.

Research by Lazare and others suggests effective apologies—meaning those that are accepted by an offended party—all tend to share a set of underlying features.

Timing

When people make the common mistake of saying they’re sorry too quickly, they can miss a crucial step towards reconciliation.

If someone commits a serious transgression, it’s best to apologize only after the victim has had a chance to “yell and vent” and fully process the betrayal.

Apologies that come too late, like those that come too early, are likely to fail; the sweet spot is somewhere between the two.

Assuring the victim

Assure the victim that the bad behavior won’t happen again.

You should be more focused on the other person, making sure they really believe that you get what you did wrong. Without that emphasis on the other person’s emotional state—and the promise of change—an apology sounds insincere.

Overdoing apologies

Apologies also have a law of diminishing returns, and overdoing it can make each individual apology feel less sincere. 

If you apologize too frequently to someone, it becomes background noise. 

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Be sincere

The only time to apologize is when you’re genuinely remorseful. 

Avoid any apology that is forced. The person you are apologizing to will pick up on your ...

Be honest and vulnerable

In order to show your sincerity when apologizing, you must be honest and vulnerable. That can lead to the cultivation of meaningful relationships. It can also lead to rejection, which is what makes it so scary. 

When you apologize, be willing to share openly and candidly, allowing emotions to flow freely, so that you can be fully seen.

Admit fault

Take responsibility for your actions and admit your mistakes or transgressions. State them out loud. Yes, it will be scary. It will feel shameful for a time. But it is worth it.

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Apologies are not about right and wrong

They're about taking responsibility for unintentionally (or even intentionally) hurting someone emotionally or physically.

You apologize less because of you and your c...

6 Components of a good apology
  1. Expression of regret
  2. Explanation of what went wrong
  3. Acknowledgment of responsibility
  4. Declaration of repentance
  5. Offer of repair
  6. Request for forgiveness
Communicate Effectively And Sincerely

The content of an apology is only half the battle. The delivery matters as well. If you mumble, avert eye contact, or stand in the corner with your arms crossed, it won’t matter what you say. 

No matter how much damage was done, a sincere apology restores faith.

The Courage To Apologize

Saying you’re sorry is uncomfortable. It can be hard to admit your shortcomings and acknowledge your mistakes. But taking responsibility is the key to restoring trust.

A Long, Hard Look in the Mirror

Apologies bring us face-to-face with the fact that we have something to apologize for, triggering a sense of guilt and shame. 

Saying sorry puts one’s shameful beha...

The Chance to Move Forward

When people focus on their core values, they seem to become more willing to sincerely apologize. 

By understanding the many barriers to an apology— the indifference to another’s pain or the fraying of a relationship—we can glimpse what’s holding us back from saying “I’m sorry” in a particular situation. 

From there, we have the opportunity to change course and let the healing begin.

How to Make a Good Apology

A high-quality apology has three elements:

  1. It accepts responsibility for the wrong and doesn’t even hint that outside forces, or the victim, caused the offender to do what they did.
  2. It’s unqualified. If the apology contains a “but,” it fails. There’s time later—after the injury has had time to heal—to bring up any qualifications that might be relevant to future interactions.
  3. It offers to make amends to avoid the transgression in the future.
Causing unintentional harm

We all cause harm to our partner and the intimacy between us. We make mistakes that are foolish and unintentional and sometimes launch attacks on purpose.

When you wound another, apologi...

How to give an apology

A good apology takes two people: the giver and the receiver. An apology that heals is based on kindness, generosity, and compassion. 

The recipient accepts it with grace and, in turn, offers forgiveness. Without forgiveness, it cannot heal.

The mindful apology in practice
  • Repair: An apology that rebuilds intimacy should have three parts: you need to own the mistake, and then you need to repair the damage. Lastly, you need to vow to improve.
  • Forgive:  If you have been hurt, you may never completely forget, but you can choose to forgive. To decide to forgive means that you don't relive something that belongs to the past.
  • Begin again: Unfinished business will accumulate. Let go of the small and the large wounds, so they don't pile up. 
Using too much jargon

When you constantly take over normal words and use them in odd ways to make them sound "businessy", people will most likely roll their eyes.

Stick to using words as they're defined ...

Clichés

Unoriginal expressions used so frequently that they've actually lost meaning like  "out-of-the-box thinking" could reveal a lack of respect for the listener.

Avoid metaphors completely or use original ones. If that's too hard, tweak the wording of clichés to make them less cliché-ish.

Prolixity

Using big, impressive sounding words rather than smaller, common ones can leave listeners with the impression that you're pompous and pretentious.

The fix, in this case, is a big dose of humility. 

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The Rules Of Sorry
The Rules Of Sorry
  • Accept Responsibility.
  • Acknowledge harm and suffering that you may have caused.
  • Do make a promise of future correction of the mistake.
  • Be sincere.
  • Mak...
The Gratitude Trick

A recent study in a marketing journal advises to use gratitude, and start with a note of thanks towards what has been endured by the recipient.

For Example, Saying “Thank you for your patience’ instead of ‘Sorry for the wait’.

Explanations and Excuses

... along with justifications is all we normally blurt out during a heated discussion or argument, and it just makes things worse.

Focus on the present and the future, and not try to justify the past.

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Resentments Build

Timeliness is crucial for workplace apologies. Tensions can easily escalate to the point of making work unbearable for one or more partie...

Consider Legal Entanglements

In some situations, an apology can equate to an admission of guilt. If there are any concerns about the repercussions of an apology, you may want to consult with your legal department before making it.

However, if you messed up and the results are catastrophic, it's important to own the mistake and accept the consequences. If you try and shift the blame, someone else might pay, and others may lose respect for you. 

Don't Assume Fault that Isn't Yours

If you are wrongly blamed for a mistake, make your case and speak up for yourself. 

You may be tempted to cover for others, and while helping someone else out of a tough spot may seem noble, this could eventually evolve into someone using you as a doormat, or escaping responsibility for repeated mistakes.

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The reward system

The reward system in our brain exists to ensure we seek out what we need. If eating nutritious food or being smiled at pleases us, we try to secure more of these stimuli. However, seeking pleasure ...

Desire and pleasure

In 1986, a discovery was made that dopamine did not produce pleasure, but in fact, desire. While dopamine makes us want, pleasure comes from opioids and endocannabinoids ( a kind of marijuana produced in the brain), which paints pleasure on good experiences.

Potential clinical application

We cannot explain away our minds by brain mechanisms. Brain mechanisms are part of our minds.

Understanding that desire and dread, for instance, share the same brain operations, could help ease schizophrenia symptoms by restricting a particular dopamine neuron that produces fear.

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The two sides of a relationship
The two sides of a relationship

Sometimes our closest and most important relationships are also the most difficult. Our relationships are both cooperative and competitive. We work together with the ones we love but also h...

Spill Some Coffee

Doing everything to make your life seems perfect may make you a target for resentment.

People who inspire the most trust are those who show warmth and competence. While we may be competent, warmth may be lacking. To ensure you don't inspire envy, screw up a little. It will make you seem more approachable. Embarrassing yourself makes you a lot more human.

The Little Things

Just asking people, "Is this a good time to talk?" increases compliance with requests.

Show that you care by doing little things, even if they're ridiculous.

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