What to Say When You Mess Up

“Sorry” is always the first word that comes out of anybody’s mouth when a mistake has been made.  But what does this really mean when you utter it to someone you have offended? Is it enough to make things all right again?

It is a fact of life that no matter what you do or wherever you go there will always be an instance where you will find yourself in a situation which you cannot fix by merely saying “sorry”.  You must couple it with actions that will make the other party feel the sincerity in the word.

Here are a few more tips which could be helpful when dealing with a wrong move, an offensive remark, an un-called for reaction or simply committing a mistake.

  • Before even saying sorry, acknowledge the wrong that you’ve done. Do not even attempt to justify to the offended party why you said or did what you did.  Just admit the wrong and signify your intent to correct it. Then, simply ask the other person “how do you want this resolved?”
  • Make good your word once you have reached an agreement to resolve the mistake. Earn back the trust and shake the person’s hand as a seal of assurance that all’s well that ends well.  Do not forget to say “thank you” for the renewed ties.
  • When you promise something, make sure you deliver. To fall short of a person’s expectation of you is one thing, but to renege on a commitment is one big mistake that may irreparably damage both your personal and professional relationships. Your apologies will no longer matter.  But if perchance, the apology is accepted, aside from saying sorry and thank you, use this one-liner: “I am truly lucky to have been given this opportunity to be of service to you.”  And then, make up for the delay by giving more than what was promised, believe me, it will earn you extra mileage.
  • Avoid making the same mistakes over and over again.This will only destroy your credibility. In business, credibility is of capital importance. All your words of atonement will no longer have value. Your only chance at redeeming yourself is to be authentic when convincing people you have wronged, why they should even listen to you.  Try this line for starters:  “I am aware that I have been a disappointment to you not only once and I cannot fault you for losing your confidence in me.”  If they grant you a dialogue then you can rest assured that they are convinced and could give you another opportunity to prove that the past mistakes were beyond your control.
  • Lastly, always be direct to the point when apologizing for a mistake. There is no need to give a long and winding speech about the wrong-doing.  Identify the problem, be rueful and as parting words say: “It is indeed a pleasure knowing you and I do look forward to meeting you again.”