Culture Contaminants: Qualified Apologies

For some people apologising is something they do with ease, whilst for others an apology will hardly ever pass their lips. There are also those people who like to cover both options and will apologise; but with a qualifier. An apology-qualifier may come in the form of words such as “But…” or “However…” that are placed directly after the apology.

I recently experienced a qualified apology that went something along the lines of “I’m sorry I didn’t…, BUT I had…” For me this type of apology comes-across as false. The reason is that the apology was genuine and heartfelt right-up until they got the the “BUT”. The word ‘But” is like an eraser to everything that proceeds it. It null and voids the apology. There is an element of “I may’ve made a mistake, but I’m still right” within the approach, which often leaves the person on the receiving-end feeling unacknowledged and made to feel ‘wrong’ or ‘minimised’ for voicing their concerns.

Qualified apologies can also contaminate organisational culture. They reek of  an “I’m right” attitude; often underpinned by arrogance, pride or even a fear of being seen as vulnerable. A genuine apology is heartfelt, needs no qualifier and creates union rather than unrest. 

So what does an apology sound like from you?

  • How willing are you to be vulnerable without excuse?
  • How much do you need to be ‘right’ or maintain ‘face’?
  • If it is hard for you to apologise; why is that?


And finally…

Never ruin an apology with an excuse!



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