How To Apologize For An Error? Martyr Yourself!
If there’s one thing I’m consistent at, it’s making some stupid error at least once a year. One of the classic errors happened my first year out of college. One of the IT guys and I were good friends, always winding each other up and cutting each other down. He sent out a department-wide e-mail saying the systems would be off for the weekend, therefore nobody should bother coming into work.
Instead of clicking “Reply”, I mistakenly clicked “Reply All” and wrote, “Isn’t this why you have a job? So you can fix my computer and we can work all weekend? Who hired you anyway?!” As soon as I sent the e-mail, paralysis took hold. I was mortified!
With my head tucked low, I immediately walked into my supervisors office and apologized profusely. “I am a complete bumbling idiot! I can’t believe I was so careless and stupid. I’m such a fool. Please forgive me!” I think I may have shed a tear, but I don’t recall exactly.
To my surprise, my manager laughed, and told me not to worry about it, and to go back to my desk. “No big deal Sam, don’t be too hard on yourself! Didn’t realize how much you enjoyed busting people’s chops!”
Phew, bullet dodged.
DARN, ANOTHER ERROR
A year passed, and I felt like I was gaining traction at work. In fact, I was trusted to host a meeting all the way in Anchorage, Alaska! Clearly, I had a graduated from peon status. All was good until I landed. I forgot to bring the presentations for the CEO of a large company who needed them for the next morning’s meetings. Once again, I was screwed both ways. My only job was to fly down to Anchorage, introduce management, give them their hard copy presentations and keep quiet. I blew it!
Feeling the sense of dread all over again, I mentioned to the CEO during dinner the night before that I completely forgot his presentations. “I am a total moron! I don’t know how I could have been so stupid as to forget your presentations. I am so sorry!” I blurted out while hitting the back of my head with the palm of my hand. I could see the CEO’s face wince every time I slapped my head.
“In my rush to the airport, not only did I forget to bring your presentations, I also forgot my dental floss!” I explained.
The CEO then started to laugh and said “Sam, don’t worry son. Everything will be alright. We’ll just pull up the presentation on our laptops, and show the clients this way. Have a scotch on me!”
During the meetings the next day, the CEO did as promised and whipped out the presentation using his Thinkpad and everything was fine. It was then, that I realized how to truly apologize.
ONLY TWO THINGS ARE NEEDED TO MAKE UP FOR A GOOF
1) Never make any excuses, unless it’s funny. Excuses are for losers. Address the mistake and accept the blame.
2) Scold and punish yourself louder and harder than your superiors ever would. The more you beat yourself up, the less your superior will feel the desire to beat you up! In fact, often times your superior will take the other side and have sympathy for you during your self admonition.
If you can take control of the situation, admit your fault, and then whip yourself like Sylas does in The Da Vinci Code, everything will be ok! The Martyr Method is highly scalable in practically any type of scenario you can imagine. Let me demonstrate.
MARTYRING YOURSELF FOR LOVE
Let’s say your girlfriend sees you ogling another girl while you’re walking down the street. As soon as you realize you are caught, you can say to her, “Oh my gosh, I am such a dirty pig. What I did was so disrespectful. You’re the only one for me!”
Ok, you’ve got to say this with a straight face, and not bust out laughing. If you can say the above line sincerely, I promise you, your sins will instantly be forgiven. You’ve taken the words right out of her mouth, and told her exactly what she wants to hear! One needs to preempt the scolding that’s coming with your own scolding. If for some odd reason your original line doesn’t work, you can also add, “How about we go on a shopping spree at Tiffany’s? My treat!”
Conflicts and mistakes are never fun. When it is clear you’ve made an error, just apologize, recognize your errors, and promise improvement. Nothing drives a manager more nuts than when a subordinate doesn’t realize what he or she has done. Your manager just wants to make sure you get it right the next time. It’s how you treat the error and how you move forward that really counts.
Readers, any dumb mistakes you’ve made during work or elsewhere? What solutions did you come up with to make things right again?
Sam @ Financial Samurai – “Slicing Through Money’s Mysteries”
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