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Why It’s Important to be Wrong: The Valuable Art of Apology

Why It’s Important to be Wrong: The Valuable Art of Apology

    Have you noticed how obsessed we all are with getting things right? Not only that, but doing the right thing quicker and better than ever before. Everywhere you turn, there are books, magazines and blogs dedicated to making sure we have the secrets of success so we don’t screw up. In the face of all this rampant perfectionism, it’s easy to overlook the importance of being OK without getting it wrong now and then.

    I had a bad day yesterday. In fact, I would go so far as to say that my morning was one hot mess and that there is no one to blame but me. I handled a couple of issues SPECTACULARLY badly. By 10am, I had done some serious, but hopefully impermanent damage to some important relationships in my life, both personal and professional.

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    To Err is human

    “Shut Up, Shut Up, Shut Up!”, the mature part of me was screaming, but unfortunately, this wasn’t the part of me that was driving the bus at the time. All in all, it was an epic fail on the “impulse control front.” For someone adept at navigating the grey complexities of ethics in both academic and professional life, it’s rather bizarre how obnoxiously black and white I can be when things get personal. Now that my blood pressure has gone back down to normal, I cringe as I reflect on my vehement and indignant behavior.

    Being able to see that we (may) have made an error of judgment is a good thing. Not least because it keeps our ego in check and teaches us some humility.

    The Customer is always right

    In business, the old saying “the customer is always right” still holds true. Customer service, or lack thereof, can make or break a company. At the foundation of good customer service is the ability to apologize and to do it well. One often cited example of best practice is from 1982 when a Japanese Airlines plane crashed in Tokyo Bay. The president of the airline went promptly and personally met with and apologized to each family of the crash victims.

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    Not only is it the right thing to do, but in some cases, it actually pays to apologize. Take the world of medical malpractice, where the traditional consensus amongst attorneys defending doctors who were being sued used to be to advocate silence. However, some more recent research has challenged this way of thinking. One of the most famous cases is the VA Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. The Lexington VA has a policy surrounding medical error which actually encourages communication of sympathy and admissions of fault. Not only that but the VA is proactive in disclosing errors and offers help on how to file a claim.

    This policy of extreme honesty, practiced since the late 1980s, has reportedly reduced lawsuits and settlement and defense costs. Only three cases have gone to trial in 17 years, with the average settlement being $16,000, compared with the national VA average of $98,000.”

    Robert J Walling and Shawna S. Ackerman (2006) “Having to say your sorry: A More Efficient Medical Mal Practice Insurance Model.”

    The disclaimer

    While saying sorry might avoid a law suit in many circumstances, if you find yourself in a situation that has a chance of ending in legal proceedings, it is always advisable to consult an attorney because in some states, saying “I’m sorry” can be used as an admission of guilt in court.

    How not to apologize

    Of course, all apologies are not created equal and it’s said that in business, a bad apology can actually be detrimental in some circumstances. In a 2006 Inc. article, Allison Stein Wellner referred to research by Jennifer K. Robbennolt, a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law. In a study of apology letters written after a hypothetical accident, Wellner discovered that victims who received a partial apology (interpreted as I’m sorry if you think I should apologize) were actually less likely to accept a settlement offer than those who received no apology at all.

    Another common pitfall is what Lauren Bloom, attorney, ethics expert and author of the Art of Apology ebook describes as the “if/any game.” She describes it as one of the apology errors that politicians frequently make when they say, “if my actions offended anybody, then I apologize.”

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    Elements of a good apology

    There is quite a lot of helpful information to be had on the art and/or science of apologizing. Some of the key elements are sincerity, timing, taking full responsibility, acknowledging the hurt or damage caused, asking for forgiveness, future intentions and restitution. The website PerfectApology.com points to the letter and video by Jet Blue founder and Ceo David Neeleman as a perfect business apology. “We are sorry and embarrassed. But most of all, we are deeply sorry…(for) the worst operational week in JetBlue’s seven year history.”

    Hard to say

    If it’s tricky to say sorry in business, how much harder is it in our personal relationships? Owning our short-comings can be hard. An apology can feel like an admission of failure, an undesirable acknowledgment of our human frailty. There is often fear attached to a real or perceived threat that an admission of a mistake may be used against us in the future. We may be afraid that our apology will not be accepted, that it will be greeted with anger, that it will result in more conflict when we seek to avoid confrontation.

    But, when all is said and done, I still believe that owning up to being wrong is the right thing to do. It equips us with the ability to see things from more than one perspective. It offers the opportunity to cultivate persistence and not to quit. It reminds us that life is not a performance or a test but a learning experience.

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    Conclusion

    To err is human, as the saying goes, but to forgive is divine. I’m counting on the divine intervention necessary that I might be able to give myself and everyone else permission to screw up and to learn from our mistakes. For at the end of the day, sometimes it simply comes down to this, “Would you rather be right or be happy?”

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    Last Updated on August 21, 2018

    How To Ask A Girl Out And Get A Yes (Almost) Every Time

    How To Ask A Girl Out And Get A Yes (Almost) Every Time

    I used to be so shy that speaking to girls made me break out in a sweat. It was so bad that if I as much as opened my mouth to say, “Hi,” my vocal pitch went up several octaves.

    As you can imagine, this didn’t exactly help me woo the ladies (unless by “woo” you mean make them want to giggle, run away, and/or hide).

    My troubles were a symptom of a common problem shared by many guys like you: I wasn’t confident in myself. Know the feeling? Let’s give your confidence (and dating life) a helpful shove in the right direction. This is how to ask a girl out and get a yes (almost) every time.

    Ground Rules

    Your Posture Should Scream Confidence

    Most men guarantee a rejection before they even open their mouth because their appearance does not express confidence. Here are some simple cues to help you remember the do’s and don’ts of posture.

    Do not:

    • Stare at the ground
    • Cross your legs/arms
    • Slump your shoulders
    • Fidget

    Do:

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    • Keep your chin up
    • Gaze forward
    • Shoulders down and back
    • Chest high

    When in doubt, think about how much space you are taking up. Is it a lot, or a little? If you’re not taking up much space, it’s possible you are curled up in a sad little ball (which just doesn’t make you look confident).

    Take up as much space with your body as you can to reflect that you are comfortable in your body (and this hopefully goes without saying, but keep it within reason — don’t go lying down on the ground in the middle of the bar or anything crazy!)

    The Clothes Make the Man

    No, you don’t have to be donned in a freshly tailored suit when you ask a girl out. But that doesn’t mean you should look like a slob either. Dress in whatever style fits your personality, but keep it classy. No wrinkled tees, dirty shoes, or other fashion disasters allowed. Don’t sweat the specifics, but whatever you do, dress like the handsome and polished fella you are.

    Gauging Interest

    Engage Eye Contact

    If a coffeehouse cutie catches your eye, shoot a few harmless glances in her direction. Linger for a brief moment before turning your attention elsewhere, but don’t voyage beyond the five second mark unless you want to be labeled a creeper.

    If she returns your gaze with a smile, this is a good sign that the feeling might be mutual.

    Do Not Confuse Kindness with Attraction

    Just because a woman smiles at or talks to you, does not mean she wants to take your friendship to the next level, so don’t get your hopes up without good reason.

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    Not sure if a friend likes you or not? Ask her out and if she says, “What, like a date?” reply, “Yes!” without hesitation. Confidence is sexy (and even if she says, “No,” at least you’ll know for sure).

    The Approach

    Keep It Simple

    Don’t try to be funny and forget about impressing her. Women are attracted to men who are confident in their own skin, so bending over backwards in an attempt to “wow” a woman will probably just make her think you are trying too hard.

    Take a few deep breaths, think to yourself, “No big deal,” confidently walk up to her, and say, “Hi.” For bonus points, find something about her to compliment (maybe she has a neat tattoo, an expressive smile, or a witty t-shirt?).

    Does Popping the Question Sound Terrifying?

    If you’re worried about appearing nervous, let’s make your approach as quick-and-painless as possible.

    March up to her and say something like, “Hello! I know this is a bit random, but I just wanted to say you caught my eye. I’m running late for a meeting/work/class/(you get the idea), but I’d love to get your phone number if that’s okay?”

    The Big Night

    Don’t Take a Sporty Woman to the Opera

    Did she say yes? Sweet! Let’s get ready for your date, you fine hunk of man, you.

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    Do some homework before the Big Night arrives. Ask her about things like favorite movies, sports, musical genres, and hobbies.

    This way, you can disguise your detective work as small-talk and surprise her with a perfect night out that fits her interests.

    Are You Listening, Ogling, or Waiting for Your Turn to Speak?

    Keep your eyes on her eyes when she speaks. If you show her what a classy, interesting guy you are, you’ll have more opportunities to check those out later.

    And REALLY listen to her! Listen actively, smiling and nodding in the appropriate places, and be ready with follow-up questions that show her how thoughtful you are. First impressions are huge, so don’t blow it!

    Keep It in Your Pants

    If you’re both ready to hop in bed together after the first night, I’m not gonna stop you. Different women have different comfort zones when it comes to sex, so I can’t give you a sweeping suggestion for when sex should become a serious consideration.

    That said, don’t push the issue if she isn’t ready. If you really like this girl, don’t blow it in a moment of overwhelming libido. I know it’s hard to be patient but remember: everything is better when you have to wait for it (plus it will be a lot more fun when she is ready … promise!)

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    Post-Date

    No Mind Games Allowed

    There is no “best time” to text or call after a date, so stop over-analyzing it.

    If she likes you, she will be more than happy to hear from you, no matter when that might be (Note: if the first date was a Grand Slam, you’d be wise to say, “Hi,” the following day and schedule a follow-up date ASAP because momentum is your friend).

    The only rule? Don’t be clingy. Confidence is hot, so keep calm and cool.

    Fellas: I hope you feel more confident in the question, “How to ask a girl out?”

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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