Business Etiquette: The Power of the Apology

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We all make mistakes, but often it’s hard to admit them and more difficult yet to say the words, “I’m sorry.”  When you have offended a business associate or client, a sincere apology is essential if you wish to continue the relationship and move forward.  Just as importantly, it is a clear demonstration of good business etiquette and workplace manners.

Sometimes the spoken words are enough; sometimes they’re not. You may need to send a handwritten note. Depending on the offense and the relationship, a gift may be in order.

The most important thing is to apologize immediately.  If you are with the person at the time of the offense—perhaps you have made an ill-chosen remark—say you are sorry right away.

If you find out after the fact that you have wronged someone, call or visit the person as soon as possible. Don’t let any time elapse before you apologize.

The longer you wait the more difficult it will become and the less sincere you will seem.  The harm you may have done will solidify with the passage of time unless you react with speed.

The spoken word is rarely enough.  After you have said, “I’m sorry,” go on record with a note that offers lasting proof of your sincerity.  The extra effort will serve you well.

There are times when a small gift accompanying your apology is appropriate.  Flowers and candy are the most traditional way to show regret. However, when you can personalize your gift and tailor it to the recipient, it will have a greater impact.

It is never too late to ask forgiveness.  Chances are the person you offended still remembers and will appreciate your effort to set things right.

No matter what the circumstances that caused the problem, no one wants or needs to hear a list of excuses.  Maybe you had just had a root canal when you uttered that thoughtless comment—it doesn’t matter and should not be part of your apology.

If you are tempted to send an e-mail to express your regret, don’t.  E-mail communication may be speedy, but it is too impersonal and lacks sincerity when you are begging forgiveness.

No matter how you decide to make amends, keep in mind the three basics of business etiquette: courtesy, kindness and respect for others. A sincere apology will carry you further than a speeding BMW.

Photo from Savannah magazineHire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.

Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions.  Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.

Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.

Contact her via email at lydia@lydiaramsey.com or call 912-598-9812. Sign up for her free monthly newsletter and visit her website, lydiaramsey.com.

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