Half an Apology is Worse than No
Apology at All
Can half an apology really be worse than no
apology at all?
Apparently, common sense and intuition are not sufficient guideposts
when crafting the perfect apology. Common sense dictates, for example, that
any apology is better than none at all. Research suggests otherwise.
In her June, 2006 INC. Magazine article, Allison Stein Wellner
reviews some of the more fascinating insights gained from research on
business apologies; insights that challenge the commonly held myth that
something is better than nothing.
Wellner cites research by Jennifer K. Robbennolt (University Illinois) on the reactions of 145 professionals to situations involving some form of apology, typically in the context of considering a legal settlement after an accident.
According to Robbennolt's research, apologies that follow most if not all of
the ingredients outlined here were much more likely to lead to settlements (73 percent of the cases), but only 35 percent of respondents were willing to settle when only a partial apology was received.
The most fascinating (and relevant) result from Robbenolt's study is that 52 percent of respondents were willing to settle without having received any apologythat
is no apology at all.
The point here is that more of an apology is better than less, but not
enough can sometimes be worse. Obviously delivering the perfectly balanced
apology is NOT that straightforward. The key, as Wellner points out, is for
the wronged person to believe that the apologizer has truly considered what
he or she has done
. Call it the suffering effect.
Timing is also crucial"waiting
too long can backfire, but showing that you've had a chance to reflect on
your errors and feel guilty about them will likely make your apology fall on
more receptive ears."
Sincerity is another important ingredient"If you really don't intend
to change your behavior, you're better off skipping the apology. Save your
credibilityand your apologyfor a time when you really need it. And make
sure you mean it."
These are not insignificant qualifiersthey represent additional tidbits of
advice that when combined with other suggestions and research offered on
this site (such as this, on half an apology vs. no apology at all) will get you closer to crafting a more perfect apology.
Learn more about Business Apologies.
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