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Make that apology count

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in Workplace Communication,Workplace Conflict

Do you feel like you have wronged a co-worker so severely that there’s no coming back from it? While you could’ve burned some bridges, don’t consider the relationship over until you genuinely apologize. Follow this advice:

Don’t make a non-apology apology. Saying “I’m sorry, but you …” or “I’m sorry if I offended you …” shifts the blame from you to the other person and sounds insincere.

Describe that what you did was wrong. Doing so lets the other person know that you are aware of your actions—and regret them. Uttering an “I’m sorry” doesn’t have as much impact as “I’m sorry for forwarding your emails to Robert. It was a breach of your trust.”

Don’t make excuses. However, you can offer a brief explanation if your intentions were good. For example, “I felt that Robert needed to be aware of the situation, but I should have handled it differently.”

Guarantee it won’t happen again. Assure the person that you won’t make the same mistake, and then don’t. If you issue apologies—without changing your behavior—word will get around, and you’ll damage your reputation.

— Adapted from “7 Steps to Making the Perfect Apology at Work,” Anne Fisher, Fortune, http://fortune.com.

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