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What a Real Apology Looks Like

What a Real Apology Looks Like

“I can wholeheartedly apologize for not being at all sorry. And it really is the least I can do.” ~April Winchell

Have you noticed there is a sanitized, politically correct version of apologies that is all the rage these days? You walk away from these apologies mildly unsettled that you don’t actually know what they said, and you certainly don’t know what they meant.

One of my favorites is, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Allow me to translate that. It means, “I’m sorry for me that you are getting it so very wrong.” My friends, this isn’t an apology—it is an exercise in self-pity wrapped in clever conceit.

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Another common device is a statement like, “Mistakes were made.” Really? By whom? Is the unknown mistake-maker sorry for what they did, or merely for getting found out? Were these mistakes just practical errors or moral failures? Such an apology opens up more questions than it answers. Actually it doesn’t answer any questions at all.

What’s the Point of an Apology?

If we are ever going to figure out what a real apology looks like, we are going to have to go back to why we would ever make an apology in the first place. Consider some possibilities:

  • I would like to right a wrong; my wrong
  • I have new information that impacts my past actions
  • Other people expect an apology

To put it another way, the possibilities are:

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  • I was wrong and I knew it
  • I was wrong and I didn’t know it until now
  • Other people think I was wrong

The first one is the simplest. If you were wrong and you knew it, say so. Like this: “I was wrong. Worse yet, I knew I was wrong. I’m sorry about any pain or problems that I caused as a result.” This is complete ownership of every aspect of the situation. The beauty of this is there is nothing left for someone to take issue with—you own it all. Sure, others may still be mad and there may be resulting consequences, but this is the most complete clean-up that is possible.

The second one is a little trickier. It will be tempting to say, “I was wrong but…” Using the word “but” is dangerous in apologies. Functionally speaking, “but” means “ignore everything I said before the ‘but’.” “I’m sorry I was late but the traffic was terrible” becomes “The traffic was terrible, so I’m not sorry at all.”

First, lose the “but”. “I’m sorry I was late; the traffic was terrible.” This one is better, but it can be improved even more. (Notice what “but” did to my last sentence. By using “but” I have said that being better doesn’t matter because it can be improved even more. This is a proper use of “but”.)

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Next, fix the order. “Traffic was terrible. I’m sorry I was late.” You have delivered information about the traffic and yet you did not weaken your apology. It doesn’t matter why you didn’t meet expectations, you didn’t meet them. Again, own it. It makes your apology powerful and meaningful.

But I Wasn’t In The Wrong…

Of all possible scenarios, the one where others expect an apology and you don’t feel you owe one is the toughest. Lying is not the answer. Insincerity isn’t either. Hopefully we have already dismissed misdirection and superficial avoidance, so should you just jut out your chin and refuse to apologize?

There is a softer approach. You can acknowledge their offense. “I can see that you are upset.” You can state that if you saw it their way you would likely feel the same way they do. “If I had counted on you to be here at 2:00, I would be unhappy too.”

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Now pay close attention. Don’t say “but”. If you do, you just take back your acknowledgements and they are valuable. “When we last spoke I wrote down the time we agreed on. I heard 2:30.” By saying, “I heard” you again take ownership. It’s not about what they said, it’s about what you heard. They can’t deny what you heard even if they insist it isn’t what they said. Give them credit for that. “You may well have said 2:00 but I heard 2:30.” (Again, a correct use of “but”.) Maybe they said 2:30. Maybe they didn’t. It doesn’t matter now.

Wrap it up with, “I am sorry about our misunderstanding.” Note, it’s “our”. There is no denying that you are not understanding each other in this moment—the person who is responsible for the the misunderstanding is irrelevant as far as your apology goes.

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A real apology does not hide or fake; it is simply considerate of the other person. You don’t have to lose your pride either. Taking ownership is the most straightforward way to preserve it.

You don’t have to be wracked with angst to give a heartfelt apology. The other person is experiencing something they don’t like whether it’s suffering or annoyance or confusion and your apology can mitigate or diffuse their discomfort without transferring it to you. You get to be the bigger person. When it comes right down to it, getting good at apologizing is freeing and apologizing sincerely is a powerful thing to do.

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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

11 Things Overachievers Do Differently

11 Things Overachievers Do Differently

We all know some overachievers: supermoms who manage to get online degrees between cleaning, cooking, and taking kids to practice; students who write 10-page papers when the directions call for 4; managers whose resumes look more like pages from the Guinness book of Records.

How do they do it all? How is it possible that one person can graduate at the top of their class, found an orphanage in India, run 30k marathons, write a best-selling book, travel all over the world and learn to speak Mandarin Chinese while having a full-time job?

What’s the secret of an overachiever? Here’re 11 things overachievers do differently that you can learn from.

1. They Know How to Manage Their Time

It’s pretty simple actually – you can never become an overachiever if you don’t know how to organize your time efficiently.

The great thing is that overachievers are ready to share their knowledge and time management talent with the rest of the world. Read The 4-Hour Workweek or The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

2. They Don’t Spend Hours Watching TV or Playing Computer Games

Mostly because they have better things to do, like exercising, reading, spending an evening with their family or volunteering to work in the local soup kitchen. Their philosophy is simple – the world is full of wonderful things to try, explore and experience. Watching TV is not one of them.

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3. They Are Obsessed With Perfection

Imagine Steve Jobs’ work approach and you’ll understand the level of perfection and painfully high standards that overachievers set for themselves and those around them. Often it pays off (especially if they focus on just one domain). But sometimes compulsive over-striving turns into a sure-fire road to disappointments and unfinished tasks.

Learn how to strike a balance: How Not to Let Perfectionism Secretly Screw You Up

4. They Know How To Inspire

Overachievers learn quickly that it is much easier to achieve goals through collaboration (and especially delegation). So they know how to inspire, encourage, persuade and motivate people around them. Even though they often drive their team crazy with their stubbornness and perfectionism, people quickly follow under the spell of their enthusiasm and greater vision.

Learn these 10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively.

5. They Set Clear Goals

The term “overachiever” itself implies that they know how to achieve goals. That is kind of hard to do if your goals are vague, unclear and lack specific deadline, which is why overachievers educate themselves, read goal-setting books, and think about the best way to approach a new task.

Although, it’s worth mentioning that overachievers usually use their time management and goal-setting skills towards competitive, “I want to kick butt” type of goals rather than self-improvement, mastery goals.

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Take a look at these tips to help you set clearer goals: What Are SMART Goals (And How to Use Them to Become Successful)

6. They Are Organized

It’s hard to imagine a disorganized overachiever, isn’t it? Their great organizational and planning skills usually serve three main purposes: keeping track of time, keeping track of progress and keeping track of achievements.

This hasn’t been confirmed by scientific research yet, but overachievers might actually get a “runner’s high” from crossing tasks off their to-do lists, and making new to-do lists.

Here’s How to Organize Your Life: 10 Habits of Really Organized People

7. They Try to Avoid Failure at All Costs

Some psychologists believe that overachievers place their self-worth on their competence, driven by an underlying fear of failure. Rather than setting and striving for goals based on a pure desire to achieve, their core motivation becomes avoiding failure. This may explain the fact that overachiever beat themselves up for even little setbacks and seemingly-insignificant mistakes.

But be aware that having a strong fear of failure can wrek havoc your productivity. So the best thing to do? Learn to conquer the fear: Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Conquer It)

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8. They Love Awards

Who doesn’t love them, right? True enough, but unlike most people who like to feel acknowledged and appreciated for their efforts, overachievers are bent on collecting ‘awards’, be it university degrees, spelling bee prizes or unusual destinations.

While loving awares isn’t bad, it’s even better if you’re driven by internal motivation instead of external ones which could be quite uncontrolable or unstable: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It).

9. They Don’t Understand the Concept of Work Hours

Don’t get surprised if you receive a work-related email anywhere between 8 p.m. and midnight. It’s something overachievers usually do and you weren’t the only one. At least 20 more emails have been sent during these hours to other people. The concepts of over-achieving and working overtime usually go hand in hand.

The downside of this is an imbalnced life, which may need to problems in other aspects of life including health and relationships. A better way is to Achieve a Realistic Work Life Balance.

10. They Rest

Overachievers might often be labeled as “workaholics”, because they often ignore bodily signs of hunger, fatigue and even a full bladder, hoping to finish just one last little part. This doesn’t mean that overachievers don’t know how to disconnect and relax.

True that they tend to work in the highest gear, but they also have enough sense to give themselves time to rest and recharge. Of course, they do it in their own overachieving way, preferring climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or hiking through the Amazon jungle to lazing on the beach.

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11. Overachievers Continuously Educate Themselves

A great quality that most overachievers have is the hunger for knowledge. They surround themselves with bright people. They know how to listen, and most importantly, they get tons of mentoring.

Despite the fact that overachievers want to excel at everything they set their minds on, they are humble enough to admit that to get on top of their game, they need help. And they are willing to pay someone to push, coach and guide them.

You too can learn How to Create a Habit of Continuous Learning for a Better You.

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Featured photo credit: Nghia Le via unsplash.com

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