By Steve Moran
I am a little worried that I am by a tiny, tiny bit crossing the “too much personal information” line with this article, but if it makes a difference for one leader it will be worth it.
Several months ago I published an article that was very hurtful to someone who is significant in the industry and for whom I have great respect. At the time, it never really occurred to me this person could be hurt by what I wrote. In fact, I kinda assumed they would like it. A few weeks later I was having lunch with a mutual friend, and that friend said:
“I was really surprised you published that article because it was really hurtful.”
My first reaction was “Oh brother,” followed immediately by a . . . “well, I guess I could see that.” It was suggested that it might be worthwhile to apologize. I never did, but it continued to niggle at me.
Then I recently crossed paths with that person and, even though, everything was very friendly, I just didn’t feel quite right.
It Gets Worse . . .
Then I was at a recent conference and stopped to chat with someone who is quite well known, that I have a growing relationship with. I got caught up in a little discussion where I said something that made me sound like a jerk.
If I Had Done Nothing . . .
If I had done nothing about these little stupid things life would have gone on. We would have crossed paths again, had good conversations, and maybe our friendships would have grown. The problem that kept niggling at me was that . . .
I had done the wrong thing
It had hurt the relationships -- maybe more accurately, it had hurt people
It would have made it more difficult to grow the relationships
Not every hurt requires or deserves an apology. Sometimes hard things -- true things -- need to be said. Sometimes they are appreciated and sometimes they are not. This is where no apology is ever needed, where an apology would be counter-productive.
Making It Right
Two days ago I sat down and wrote two apology emails. It was weird because I didn’t want to. I don’t like admitting that I am wrong, especially to the person I wronged. It is hard even when done via email. In both cases, I received amazingly, graciously accepting email replies from the people I had wronged, which was a wonderful gift.
It also means, I now have a much better chance of growing my relationships with those two people.
Being Wrong is Human
Honestly, we all from time to time say or do the wrong thing and hurt those we care about (or, for that matter, those we don’t particularly care about). In most cases it is just that a person is having a bad day, a person is stressed or careless. Sometimes it is possible your intent is good, but the recipient takes it the wrong way.
Apologizing, when sincere and warranted, becomes a powerful way to restore trust and build deeper relationships.
So here is my challenge . . . figure out if you have someone you need to apologize to and go do it today. And -- if you are willing -- tell us about it here.