Tact and understanding leads to effective business communications.
Stress and heavy workloads can create tension in the workplace that leads to inadvertently offending a co-worker or employee. These unintentional slights can easily be blown out of proportion if a person is not aware of how their actions and comments affect others in the workplace. The first response that many people have when they realize they’ve offended someone is to forget the incident and move on. However, if these slights are not recognized and dealt with, they can turn into major disputes practically overnight.
The moment someone even thinks about apologizing, they often have a variety of emotional reactions. It is awkward for many people to admit that they are wrong, so the typical reaction is to avoid dealing with it. However, an immediate, heartfelt apology can often solve the problem. It is important to be able to recognize when an apology is necessary and to know the most effective way to say you regret having done something.
Apologies are received best in private. A public apology often takes the recipient by surprise and can overwhelm them with emotions that they are not prepared to reveal in a professional setting. An apology given in private creates a one-on-one atmosphere where feelings can be freely exchanged without fear of censorship by co-workers or employees. A public apology often becomes a spectacle where the public admission of wrongdoing overrides the purpose of the apology.
An apology must be sincere before it will have the desired effect. An apology is, in essence, a transfer of the feelings of shame and embarrassment from the injured party to yourself. Power is also transferred, because you used your power to hurt someone and you are relinquishing it by giving them the power to forgive you.
It takes character to apologize. A genuine apology shows that someone has a deep sense of who they are and that they are secure. If someone is insecure, then they are generally not able to convey a sincere apology to anyone because the transfer of power makes them feel vulnerable. These people generally are too busy rationalizing the reason why they said or did something to someone to bother with apologizing. If they do apologize, it comes across as superficial.
You may find that when you apologize, it is not enough for the recipient to forgive and forget. Their response may not be, “That’s okay.” Instead it may be, “I appreciate the apology. However, I’m still disturbed by what happened. I’d like to discuss it with you.” This is a perfect opportunity to practice good communication.
There is a limit to how many apologies you can give. If you constantly insult and offend co-workers and employees, then you are not going to build trust among these people. This is where integrity comes into play. To establish trust and integrity, you must be consistent, communicate clearly and honestly, make realistic promises, protect confidences and treat others with respect. Your effectiveness is diminished if people think you lack integrity. Others may be reluctant to share confidential information or ethical dilemmas with you. You can determine your current level of integrity by answering the following questions:
• Make and keep realistic promises?
• Encourage open, honest, and sincere communication?
• Give honest answers to any type of question, no matter how difficult?
• Keep confidences?
• Admit when you are wrong?
• Refer to the company’s written code of ethics when you are making an ethical decision?
• Value the trust and confidence of your co-workers or employees?
• Encourage others to question any practice they cannot support?
• Have consistency between your words and actions?
• Allow other the time to ask questions?
If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, then you are familiar with high-integrity behavior. If you did not answer “yes” to most of these questions, then you need to assess your behavior and make any necessary changes. As Leo Roskin once said, “It is the weak who are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong.”