I recently found myself in a situation where I needed to apologize to someone I hurt. I was conflicted, my thoughts filled with self-justifying righteousness, “I am right, and I am hurt, too!” Yet at the same time, I was filled with regret, choking on unfinished words and self-reproach. “This isn’t turning out the way I want it to,” I said to myself. Ugh…the only way to get myself out of my self-inflected situation was to say, “I’m sorry.”
Apologizing is difficult, especially when the stakes are high and the hurt runs deep. It’s easy to let yourself off the hook, blaming the other person and minimizing your role in the situation. When you finally bring yourself to say the words, stress hormones flood the body creating fight or flight responses. Your brain screams, “Don’t do it! Run!” or “Get mad! Don’t go down without a fight!” It’s takes everything in your power to go through with it. Your mind spins as you think of the million ways to express yourself. But in the end, it’s worth it. When you apologize, it allows space for both you and the other person to move forward, to let go, to forgive. It will make you and the other person feel better.
So how do you apologize the right way?
Write Down the Outcomes You Want
Before you go into a high stress situation, know what you want to get out of it. Write down your desired outcomes and keep them handy during the conversation; it will help you stay on track if the person responds emotionally and you can review them if you find yourself getting emotional or making excuses. Examples of outcomes might be to repair a damaged relationship, defuse an emotional situation, or simply to own your part in a conflict.
Check Your Emotions. Choose How You Want to Feel
Emotions don’t have to dictate your feelings and reactions. Even when they are strong, you can still choose how you want to feel. You can choose to feel compassion, relief, or ownership. Or you can also choose to feel angry, justified, or shameful. It’s up to you to determine your outlook on the situation, so check your emotions and choose to see the bright side of apologizing.
Apologize. Own it. Don’t Over Explain Your Actions
It’s best to just say, “I am sorry; I own what I did.” Most people don’t want to hear excuses because they water down the apology and make it feel insincere. Sometimes though, it may be appropriate to explain your side, but only do it to help the person forgive, not to minimize your role in what happened. Over explaining sounds like excuse making.
Express Regret, Be Specific
In addition to saying, “I’m sorry,” you should express regret for hurting the other person. For example, “I regret hurting you; it was wrong of me to blame you and it damaged our relationship. Our relationship is important to me and I understand that I have to earn your trust back.” This validates the person’s feelings which is what most people want out of an apology. Being specific brings a tone of sincerity and it shows you understand how your actions affected the person.
Ask Questions and Listen
Remember, the person you are apologizing to isn’t there to only hear you out. Give him or her the opportunity to respond. Ask questions to draw out meaningful dialogue, listen carefully and don’t get defensive.
Make Commitments and Keep Them
After you’ve apologized and expressed regret, make a commitment to change your behavior. Outline what you are going to do differently and follow through. Everyone makes mistakes but there is nothing worse than repeating it because you didn’t change your behavior. Trust can be rebuilt quickly if you demonstrate that you’ve learned from what happened.
Smile, Say Thank You and Leave
At the end of your apology, smile. Smiling makes everyone feel better and it releases tension. Thank the person for listening and then leave. Most people need time to process and hanging around afterwards doesn’t allow the space required to do so.
Following these steps will help you deliver a sincere, meaningful apology and will start the process of forgiveness. As famous cartoonist Lynn Johnson famously wrote, “An apology is the super glue of life. It can repair just about anything.”
Thanks for reading and as always, I appreciate comments, likes and shares!
Deflection: How to NOT Shrug off Responsibility and Pin Poor Performance and Decision Making on Someone Else
Accountability is the cornerstone of authentic and inspirational leadership. True accountability means you understand and accept that you and only you are responsible for your attitude, actions, decisions, communication, and health of your relationships. It’s hard work, requiring vulnerability, humility, integrity, and a willingness to put your ego aside. It’s uncommon to find this kind of accountability; for some reason these qualities are labeled as signs of weakness. I believe they are just the opposite.
Rather than hold oneself truly accountable, many people use deflection to shrug off responsibility and pin poor performance and decision making on someone or something else.
Deflection may sound something like this:
We shouldn’t tolerate this type of behavior from ourselves and from those around us.
So how do you stop yourself from being a deflector?
It starts with awareness. Think back on the times you were given tough feedback. Did you own it or did you blame someone or something else? Did you say thank you for the feedback or did you minimize your role in the situation? Be honest; you can’t make changes unless you embrace the hard truths about yourself. It may seem like silly advice but the only way to be accountable is to start being accountable. The only way to stop deflecting is to stop deflecting. When you hear yourself saying things like, “yeah, but” or “you always do XYZ” or “it’s not my fault” stop immediately and instead say, “I was just about to deflect blame and I don’t want to do that. Thank you for this feedback.” Then listen.
Next, take ownership and focus on the things you can control. Sure, there could be many reasons why something happened; it’s natural to want to look for causes outside of yourself, but the only way to improve a situation is to own your part. Don’t let yourself off the hook. And really, if everything is everyone else’s fault, then what part do you play in your own life? Do your actions not have any consequences? Are you truly powerless over the decisions you make and the outcomes that are a result of your decisions? I didn’t think so.
Now it’s time to create a new habit; an accountability habit. Ask someone to call you out when you start to deflect. Look for opportunities to take more ownership when things aren’t going perfectly. Pay attention to what triggers your “blame something else” mechanism so you can gain more insight around when you start to deflect. Apologize when you slip up and blame someone else.
Now how do you deal with a person who deflects all the time?
When dealing with deflection in the moment, the best technique I have found is to bring the focus back to the person by saying something like this:
Handling deflections in such a way does two things; first, it acknowledges that there are extenuating circumstances to every situation which may deserve digging into and second, it shifts the conversation towards accountability which is where solutions can be derived.
I also suggest giving honest and direct feedback. The deflector may not realize how often he or she does it and with a little coaching, could change the habit. Have a few concrete examples prepared and say something like this, “I want to share some feedback with you, if that’s okay. I’ve noticed that anytime we discuss the issues with this project, you shift the blame to someone else. For example, when you say things like “this project was handed to make like this” or “I wasn’t part of the team when that happened’ it makes you sound unaccountable and undermines your credibility as a leader and team player. I know that this is not how you want to be perceived so that’s why I wanted to bring it up. Were you aware that you’ve been doing this? Is there something going on that you want to get off your chest?” Show you care by courageously giving feedback.
Sometimes though, it may be best to ignore the “blame game” and focus on finding a solution. While shifting gears without addressing the deflection doesn’t solve the issue, it can be more productive than getting the other person to accept responsibility. There are times when you just need to move past the “what happened and who did it” phase to the “how are we going to fix it” phase. But even in those times where giving feedback in the moment doesn’t make sense, I always recommend circling back and having the conversation. No one can improve without candid feedback and we shouldn’t be fearful of giving it in a kind and helpful way.
My only other advice is to not take things the blamer says personally and don’t get defensive; I know dealing with deflectors can be frustrating but remember, their blaming isn’t about you, even if it feels like it. I also suggest trying to limit your interaction; habitual blaming can be a form of narcissism and most narcissists (at least the ones I know) have no interest in changing because they don’t think they are doing anything wrong.
There is nothing more honorable than accepting responsibility for your actions and decisions. Don’t be afraid to admit your role in tough situations. Show gratitude and compassion when others admit their own faults, too. We should encourage and applaud each other when we show up with sincere, honest accountability.
In closing, I’ll leave you with a quote from American writer Ralph Marston:
Concern yourself more with accepting responsibility than with assigning blame. Let the possibilities inspire you more than the obstacles discourage you.
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Did you know that being kind inspires kindness in others? Numerous studies show that when someone shows you kindness, you are likely to pay it forward. Think about it…when a person holds the door for you and smiles warmly, you tend to want to reciprocate. You find that the next time you can hold a door open for someone, you do so with pleasure. It feels good to be kind.
While it seems unassuming, being kind is truly powerful. Think what we could achieve if we chose (yes, it is a choice) to be kind to everyone with whom we interact. The world would immediately be a better place for each of us. Rather than feeling judged, shamed, shunned, or ignored, we would feel seen, appreciated, accepted, and respected. Since our moods and emotions tend to be contagious, we would be spreading happiness rather than yuckiness.
Always being kind, no matter the person or situation, is a simple way to dramatically improve our world. The best thing about it is that being kind requires no rules, laws, or government regulation. It’s a way for humanity to take back…well…our humanity. We as individuals can lead by example and maybe, just maybe, those who lead our communities, organizations, and countries will follow suit, showing that in the end, all that really matters is how kind we are to each other.
Here are some easy ways to start being more kind. They take no extra investment, just a conscious mindset shift and purposeful interactions.
Smile and Make Eye Contact
Show people that you see and appreciate their humanity no matter where they come from, what their belief system is, or what the situation they find themselves in. Smile and make eye contact with everyone…your coworkers, your children, the homeless guy on the corner, the clerk at the grocery store. You’ll receive smiles in return and you’ll instantly feel better, as will the people you smile at.
Being polite is simple yet respectful. Say “yes please”, “no thank you”, and “I’m sorry” often. Let someone else go first, hold the door open for others, and acknowledge people with a smile. When conversing with another, be positive, refrain from gossiping, and for goodness sake, put your phone away.
Random Acts of Kindness
I’ll never forget one morning when I walked into my office and found a little slip of paper with the words “You Have a Nice Smile” typed upon it. This little slip of paper made my day; I had a spring in my step for weeks because of this simple, anonymous acknowledgment. It’s still taped to my monitor today. Spread joy by doing small things for the people around you. Buy a stranger a cup of coffee, leave a note of appreciation on a coworker’s keyboard, send flowers to a friend, randomly leave Hershey’s Kisses on peoples’ desks, pick up litter in your neighbor’s front yard…it’s the little things that can make a person’s day and performing a random act of kindness increases the chance that others will pay it forward, too.
Being helpful is an easy way to show kindness. Take a moment out of your busy day to give a stranger directions, aid someone in picking up the papers he dropped, make eye contact and engage when a coworker asks for your assistance, and help your spouse load the dishwasher. It only takes a few moments to be helpful and it can make a big difference in a person’s day.
Reach Out to Someone Who is in Need
We all go through tough times and it’s nice to receive kindness when you’re down in the dumps. Call a friend going through a divorce, hug a coworker who just lost a loved one, send a note to someone going through a hard time to let her know you are thinking of her, or give a tissue to a crying stranger. Don’t be afraid to reach out; just a simple acknowledgement of someone’s pain can help ease the feeling of loneliness and despair.
Send a Nice Email to Someone Everyday
It stakes 60 seconds to send an email expressing gratitude and appreciation; those 60 seconds can go a long way to spread kindness in the world. Make sending a sincerely kind email to friends, coworkers, community leaders, etc. a daily habit.
Drive with Kindness in Mind
Be a kind driver; let some enter the lane in front of you and don’t tailgate or speed up quickly behind a slower driver. Don’t get angry when someone cuts you off; instead smile and wish him a nice day. Choose to be a non-aggressive driver. You’ll not only be happier but you’ll also inspire others to be kinder drivers and you’ll improve the safety of everyone on the road.
Find Something to Appreciate About Those Who are Different Than You
I like Heineken’s “Worlds Apart” commercial; it shows how two strangers with very different views can find commonalities that unite them rather than divide them. Yes, this ad simplifies the issues causing the mass polarization of humans today, but if you pause to consider that those you dislike may not be all that different from you, you might be more inclined be kinder to everyone. And really, what life improvement comes from hating someone who believes differently than you? All it does is bring self-pain and self-suffering while the rest of us go on being who we are, not really thinking too much about why you hate us; we are too busy focusing on our own life issues such as why it’s so hard to find a good paying job, affordable housing, a loving relationship, and someone to watch our children without breaking the bank. Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so. We aren’t so different after all.
Science and psychology show that humans tend to mirror each other; we reflect what we see in others. This is especially true of our leaders as we tend to emulate them the most. Choose your actions and your corresponding reflections carefully as they can make a profound difference in the happiness, kindness, and generosity in others. Choose to use this wonderful superpower we all carry within us to change the world for the better.
Thanks for reading. As always, I appreciate comments, likes, shares and retweets; please do so if you are inclined.
Despite what the media sells us, there are more good things happening on this planet than bad things. There are beautiful people doing beautiful things with the goal of helping human kind advance into the brilliant, beautiful creatures we have the potential to be. Every day, each one of us has the choice to evolve or devolve. I choose evolve; I hope you do, too.
NOW is the time to change the world. So I am taking Gandhi’s words to heart, “be the change you want to see in the world.”
I believe the world needs leaders who can bring people together; thoughtful leaders who truly listen to what people have to say even if it’s not what they want to hear; leaders who are honest and transparent, who take action and ask for feedback; those who explain the why behind decisions and who are willing to change their minds. I am going to be this kind of leader.
I believe the world needs more businesses that give back to their employees; ones that believe in spreading the wealth by paying people decent wages and providing good benefits; businesses that allow employees to partake in the success of the company through employee ownership and profit sharing; ones that treat their employees with respect and dignity and who actively help their employees improve their own lives and those of their families. I am going to create this kind of business.
I believe the world needs managers who know how to hold people accountable while at the same time being compassionate to their employees’ individual emotions, experiences, and situations; managers who care about their people, wanting them to succeed; those who are willing to put the team first and who can admit when they make mistakes. I am going to be this kind of manager.
I believe the world needs smart people who are lifelong learners; those who challenge their belief systems and are dedicated to “never stop growing”; those who are committed to reading more books, becoming better writers, considering opinions that differ from their own, traveling outside their own little worlds, and letting go of fears that hold them back. I am going to be this kind of person.
I believe the world needs good parents; those who teach their children to be resilient, accountable, and kind; those who help their children learn the valuable lessons that failure teaches; those who model the value of hard work, honest communication, and perseverance; those who love unconditionally and discipline effectively. I am going to be this kind of parent.
The world needs more communities that are filled with people who are kind to each other, who give back and get involved, who support strong education, healthcare, and infrastructure systems, and who shop locally. I am going to be this kind of community member.
There are many ways to be the change you want to see in the world. Don’t just sit on the couch and complain about the way things are. Do something about it. I encourage you to take action with kindness, compassion, inclusiveness, and with an open-mind. Choose to evolve, not devolve. Choose to change yourself for the better and in turn you’ll change the world for the better.
As always, thank you for reading. Please feel free to comment, like or share if you are so inclined. Please click here to receive my blogs in your inbox.
Honesty is the best policy. There is no doubt that Sir Edwin Sandys nailed it when he wrote this statement all those years ago. But let’s be honest, we all lie.
Sometimes we tell big lies; outright lies that are the opposite of the truth. Sometimes we tell softened truths; lies that temper the truth in an effort to minimize making another person feel badly. Sometimes we omit parts of the story…not really lying but not really telling the whole truth. And we justify all these little white lies by telling ourselves that we are doing it to protect the ones we are lying to. Or to make people feel better. Or that the little white lie you told to boost your image is harmless…stretching the truth doesn’t hurt anyone and it sure did make you feel a little better about yourself.
We tell lies like these everyday:
“Those pants don’t make you look fat!”
“For some reason you’re voicemail just came through; that’s why I’m just now calling you back.”
“The check is in the mail.”
“No, I don’t think you are abrasive. I don’t know why anyone would tell you that.”
“The trout I caught was a record breaker!”
Humans are wired to be a bit dishonest. At least that’s what Dan Ariely, behavioral economist and famed author has found in his numerous studies on honesty and cheating in context to human behavior. According to Dan, we all lie and cheat...just a little bit, or at least until our brains reward us for stopping ourselves from cheating or lying further. Sure, you just told a fib but you can pat yourself on the back for stopping at just one. By all means, you could have expanded upon the lie but that would be outright dishonest.
It’s easy to justify why it’s okay to tell a small lie. But here’s why you shouldn’t.
There isn’t a person out there (okay, maybe a few) who wouldn’t say that he or she values honesty and believe that it’s a top character trait. But we throw this value out the window when we tell little white lies. What’s more important: staying true to your values or telling that lie? What good are values if you don’t live by them?
Giving honest feedback is difficult to do but telling a little lie to avoid giving it is a cop out and a missed opportunity. Wouldn’t you rather know that those pants really aren’t that flattering? Or that people actually do see you as abrasive? Or that you need to make improvements at work? You’re not alone. We all need feedback so be kind, candid and smart in your timing, but don’t tell a lie to avoid giving feedback.
No one likes being lied to, period. You can tell yourself that you are lying to protect the other person, but the truth is, you’re still lying. Dishonesty breaks down trust in a relationship and without trust, there isn’t much of a relationship. Overtime, anger, resentment and suspicion may replace the positive feelings people had about you. Lying just isn’t worth it.
The Self-Justification Trap
If you’re like most people, telling lies will make you feel uncomfortable and uneasy (as it should). In efforts to ease these icky feelings, you may tell yourself a story. “I did the right thing by lying. The truth would have been far worse on her and therefore it’s justified. Besides, she really doesn’t want to hear the truth anyway.” This is the ‘self-justification trap’ and it basically means you are lying to yourself to make yourself feel better. Don’t let yourself off the hook; stop justifying your lies.
It’s Hard to Remember Lies
Telling the truth is always your best option. That way you don’t have to remember the lies you told. Sure, being honest in the moment may be difficult, but getting caught in a lie that you don’t remember telling will cause you to lose credibility.
Little Lies Can Turn into Big Lies
It’s easy for a seemingly harmless little lie to turn into a massive one when you have to tell more lies to support the first one. Just remember the story of Pinocchio.
Let’s face it, despite all the reasons not to, you will still lie. You won’t tell your spouse that “yes, in fact, you have gained a little bit of weight.” You will exaggerate your role in a situation. You will downplay your opinion of a coworker when he comes to ask for feedback. Little white lies will escape your lips…just like they will from everyone else’s. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t attempt to minimize the lies you tell. Try your very best to always be authentic and honest. And when you do tell a lie, be aware of it and admit it to yourself. Self-deception is the worst kind of deception.
As always, thank you for reading. I welcome comments, likes and shares….just click on the buttons below. Please click here to sign up to receive my blogs in your inbox and have a wonderful day.
Humility matters, perhaps more so today than ever. It’s a character trait that, when exhibited regularly and authentically, can help us be better listeners, inspire others, build relationships, and give us insight into different ways of thinking and being…something that in my opinion, we are in desperate need of. The only way we can solve the massive issues we face as a society is to be more humble in how we lead, follow, think, speak, and act.
In contrast, arrogance, humility’s antithesis, happens when we let our egos get in our way. Arrogance is the gateway to intolerance, exclusion, and judgmental mindsets. It is the killer of curiosity because it leads to thinking, “I know what’s right. I know what’s wrong. I know what’s best. I don’t care what you think.” It allows us to tell ourselves that we can say and do whatever we want with little regard to others. Screw political correctness, general cordialness, or respectful debate. In fact let’s just go to war (with each other or with other nations) and impose our (arrogant) will. This is incredibly dangerous and obviously unproductive given the state of the world right now.
So what exactly is humility? Merriam Webster dictionary defines it as, “the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people.” C.S. Lewis says it’s, “not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.” The Urban Dictionary states that it is, “remaining teachable, knowing that you do not have all the answers.” I think the three of these together give a fairly decent picture of what we all should strive to be but in effort to make it clearer, here are ten things you can do to be more humble.
In closing, I’ll leave you with another quote, this time from Gordon B. Hinckley who so eloquently said, “Being humble means recognizing that we are not on Earth to see how important we can become, but to see how much difference we can make in the lives of others.” What would our lives, our communities, and the world be like if we all believed in and lived by this mantra; not just for those we know and love, but for all of humanity?
Thank you for reading. As always, I appreciate you helping me spread the love so please comment, share and like if you are so inclined. Please go to my home page if you’d like to receive my blogs in your inbox.
It’s hard pick up the phone and call (or have a face-to-face meeting) when you can hide behind an email. I know from experience…I’ve typed many an email despite that nagging feeling that I should pick up the phone and call the person. My mouse anxiously hovers over the SEND button while I argue with myself...“I really should call. But emailing is so much easier. Ugh. Just hit delete and call. Ugh. Ok, take a deep breath and dial.”
I’m sure you’ve been there, too. You have to deliver bad news, receive painful feedback, talk to someone you dislike, or follow up with someone you were hoping would call you. There’s a pit in the bottom of your stomach. You tell yourself it would be so much less complicated to type up an email. You convince yourself that receiving an email would be easier on the person you have to communicate with, too. You come up with excuses as to why you HAD to write the email instead of communicating in person. You apologize for not calling (without admitting you lacked the courage, of course) and then hit send. It’s out in ether now…it’s out of your control. Whew, don’t you feel better?
The answer should be no. You shouldn’t feel better. Avoiding in-person communication, whether over the phone or face-to-face, is the easy way out. And taking the easy way out never feels good, especially in the long run because over time, it tears at your reputation and your self-esteem.
Making the call when you’d rather email takes courage and a commitment to always act with integrity. It shows that you respect the person you are communicating with. It demonstrates that you have strong character and don’t shy away from the discomfort of difficult conversations. When it comes to doing right by others, you should never take the easy way out. Just pick up the phone and call.
Oh, one more thing, making the call only to leave a voicemail doesn’t count.
If you’d like some tips on preparing for the call/meeting, please read this blog (the power of the WHY) and this blog (delivering bad news).
A Quick Blurb on what this blog is about.
Welcome to my blog! My name is Kerry Siggins and plain speaking, honest leadership is my mantra. My intention is to help those who lead (or want to lead) become better at saying and doing what needs to be said and done in a way that it can be heard and seen, one person at a time.