Apologize Once (Sincerely!) and Move On

Handshake Attempt

As you can imagine, as a resident of the Wow-world I’m never in a position to have to apologize for anything. In fact, my life is an endless loop of seamless conversation and effortless action, interspersed with lighthearted banter and witty bon mots…..


If you believe that I have some oceanfront property in Colorado I think you’d love. 

In fact, I do quite a bit of apologizing for various verbal missteps, dropped balls, and out-and-out blunders.  In addition, I oversee the apologies of many of my clients for their verbal missteps, dropped balls, and out-and-out blunders.

What have I learned from all this?

To find out what I’m looking for in a public apology by a CEO, take a look at my blog post written after the Lululemon debacle.

If it’s simply the kind of thing most of us cope with day-to-day, here are a few pointers:

First and foremost: do it quickly. Do not hope it will resolve itself. Do not think, “Oh, it will be better to let everyone cool down.” Or, “Maybe it’s not that big a deal…” Get it done.

Second: If it’s a mess of significance and it’s possible to do it in person, do it in person. If that’s not an option pick up the phone. If it’s merely a lapse in correspondence begin your email with “My apologies for my delay in responding….”

Third—and, really, this is the point of this post– do it once and move on.

What do I mean by this?

What I mean is that I don’t want to hear anything along the lines of “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry X happened– I just can’t believe it!! I’m really really sorry—I just feel so bad….I’m soooooo sorry.” Etc. etc. etc.

Why? Because when other people are confronted with an apology along those lines, they have to stop what they are doing to reassure/console you; so, instead of the focus being on the rectification of their situation or the assuaging of their feelings, they are now stuck having to cope with your situation and your feelings.

No, thanks.

What do I recommend instead? In my dream world it sounds a lot like, “X was my mistake and I couldn’t be more sorry. I apologize sincerely.” 

Depending on the situation, you may then be offered a life raft or a raft of recrimination. The point is, you’ve stopped talking. The ball is in their court.

Frances Cole Jones