Last week I wrote about the importance of saying, “Thank you.” It’s always appreciated and might make someone’s day. This week we’ll go to the opposite end of the spectrum to focus on, “I’m sorry.” Saying you’re sorry is hard but it can also make someone’s day a little brighter and make you more influential in the long run.
This post was inspired by someone I met in June when I was the opening keynote speaker at the S.I.T.E. Conference in Memphis, TN. Meg McKeen and I struck up a conversation over dinner then connected on LinkedIn. She’s an insurance agent in Chicago and recently posted about her car getting sideswiped. Being an insurance agent, she’s properly covered. However, the person who damaged her car didn’t take responsibility. No note, no “I’m sorry,” no nothing. She said that stung and I get it.
A Story with a Moral
When my daughter Abigail was 10 years old my wife had gone out of town. She asked that I take Abigail to Walmart to pick up her new glasses. Abigail was excited to get her new glasses just in time for the movies that night.
We walked into the eye care section of the store and were helped right away. Unfortunately, the person helping us could not locate the glasses and said they must be at another store. I explained that my wife had taken Abigail to that particular Walmart because it was very close to our eye doctor.
Finally, a manager came over and tried to help but to no avail. He said the glasses were at another store on Morse Road, about seven miles away. To his credit, he did everything right. Nonetheless, I wasn’t happy. I didn’t do or say anything I would have been embarrassed by but had you seen me you would have known I wasn’t a happy customer.
As we left I called my wife to let her know what happened. She said, “You know, I think we were at the store on Morse Road.” My initial thought was, “You made me look like an idiot!” Then I caught myself and thought, “No, I made me look like an idiot.”
Convicted that I could have handled the situation differently, Monday morning I called Walmart and asked for Jason, the manager. We had an exchange that went something like this:
- Me – “I don’t know if you remember me but I was in last weekend to pick up some glasses for my daughter.”
- Jason – “I remember you. How can I help you?”
- Me – “I’m calling to apologize.”
- Jason – “Apologize for what?”
- Me – “For how I acted.”
- Jason – “You didn’t act bad compared to most customers.”
- Me – “Maybe not but I was upset with something that wasn’t your fault. You did everything right and I should not have been angry.”
- Jason – “Man, you just made my day. No, you made my week! If you ever need anything please ask for me and I’ll personally help you.”
The Moral of the Story
Most good stories have a moral, something to learn. In this case it was a lesson for me and for my daughter. Later I told Abigail I had called the store to apologize. She asked why and I told her I should not have been upset with the manager. I also let her know mom and dad wouldn’t always be around to prompt her to say “I’m sorry,” that sometimes you just have to step up to apologize without someone telling you to do so.
Apologizing and Influence
Most people don’t enjoy saying, “I’m sorry.” We don’t like to think we’re wrong, have done something wrong or might have hurt someone. But, none of those negates that reality that we might have blown it.
One benefit of admitting a mistake is that you can actually build your authority with others. The principle of authority tells us people pay more attention to credible experts. Part of your credibility is being trustworthy and trust often comes when you admit a weakness. Don’t you respect someone more when they’ve owned up to something like a mistake? I know I do. We’d all be better off if more people said, “I’m sorry,” and took took responsibility.
To Do This Week
Last week I encouraged you to take a moment to thank someone. This week the encouragement is to step up and say, “I’m sorry,” if you’ve made a mistake or hurt someone. You’ll feel relieved, might make someone’s day a little brighter despite what happened and you’ll remove some of the sting from whatever prompted the apology.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker, coach, consultant, and author, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the planet when it comes to the science of ethical influence.
Brian’s first book – Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical – went live on August 20 and has been one of the top 10 selling Amazon books in the insurance space and in the top 100 in the sales & selling category since launching.
Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses Persuasive Selling, Persuasive Coaching and Building a Coaching Culture, have been viewed by more than 70,000 people! Keep an eye out for Advanced Persuasive Selling: Persuading Different Personalitiesthis month.