The Art Of Apologizing… With Strings Attached

The Art Of Apologizing… With Strings Attached

I’m now three weeks into my new gym membership. I don’t recall this practice at my previous gyms. Maybe I failed to notice.

A lot of apologies take place at gyms.

“Were you using this rowing machine? Sorry, I didn’t realize it.”

“Oh no. I just left my towel over here. Sorry for the confusion.”

That was a small exchange yesterday with another gym-goer.

A few minutes later I witnessed another apology. A woman apologized to another woman for almost getting in the way of her crunches.

There’s nothing wrong with these small apologies. It’s part of the human experience. What makes these apologies pleasant is the backdrop. They’re among strangers in a public place. Plus, the stakes are small. You lose nothing with an unnecessary apology.

Where Apologies Go Wrong

Compare that to the apologies we hear and tell in business or relationships.  These aren’t simple ones like we hear at the gym among strangers.  This kind of apology comes with strings attached.

Never Ruin An Apology With An Excuse – Benjamin Franklin

In business or personal relationships, you risk something when you apologize.

If I apologize for poor service, he may ask for a refund.

If I apologize for missing my deadline, I may lose my job

This fear influences the apology.  We add an excuse to relieve ourselves of any responsibility.

Sorry for missing the deadline. The finance department was three days late in giving me the numbers.

Benjamin Franklin despised these apologies in the 1700’s. Must of us share the same opinion today.

At the gym, among strangers, we risk nothing with a simple, no excuse apology.

In business, we feel the need to add an excuse to every apology. Common sense tells us a straight up apology fares better than one with excuses. Still, it’s hard to resist the lure adding in that excuse.

Let’s Test Which Apologies Work Best

I would love to split test these opposing apologies.

If you deal with customers, try this out.

For half of your apologies, try the following verbiage:

“Sorry. I screwed up. No excuse. Let’s see what we can do to fix it.”

For the other half of your apologies, try this alternate formula:

“Sorry your inconvenience…” + [add in your excuse]

Change the words around to match your personality if you wish.

Evaluate the response after each apology. Do you get a more favorable response with or without the excuse?

Let’s find out after two-hundred-fifty years. Did Benjamin Franklin have it right?


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