I'm Sorry, Have I Offended You?

 


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Most of us are conflict averse, and for a good reason. It isn’t much fun being in a fight with someone, getting physically or emotionally bruised.

So, we avoid confrontations, but we tend to overdo it. There are some occasions when confronting potential negativity can prevent, or dissipate even more unpleasantness.

A case in point is when we suspect we have offended someone.

If a customer leaves a message on our voice mail and we reply the next day, instead of calling back right away, it’s normal to expect a colder reception than usual when we finally connect.

Most of us will experience the chill unconsciously, and we may respond, if only nonverbally, with our own coolness.

This can start a chain reaction of distancing, until we no longer want to deal with each other. This deterioration in relationship could have been prevented if one of us said, “I’m sorry, but have I offended you?"

Right away, several dynamics are put into place:

(1) We staunch the flow of negativity.

(2) We apologize first, which is totally appropriate if we did offend. If they initiated the sequence, no matter. Our apology will elicit theirs, or will at least break the ice. Just as negativity is mirrored, so is “positivity. "

(3) We will be taking responsibility, demonstrating maturity and leadership.

(4) We will be showing sensitivity to our impacts, and making an investment in having an unfettered, future relationship with the listener.

(5) We will be renegotiating our communication contract, repudiating an implicit code of silence. Instead we’ll be saying, from now on, it’s okay to bring attention to our lapses, in the greater interest of getting along.

Sincere apologies tend to elicit quick and sincere forgiveness, and that’s nice.

Even in the odd circumstance where our apology fails to restore harmony, at least we can feel good about making the first move, about trying, about doing our best.

That’s nothing to be sorry about!

Dr. Gary S. Goodman, President of Customersatisfaction.com, is a popular keynote speaker, management consultant, and seminar leader and the best-selling author of 12 books, including Reach Out & Sell Someone® and Monitoring, Measuring & Managing Customer Service. A frequent guest on radio and television, worldwide, Gary’s programs are offered by UCLA Extension and by numerous universities, trade associations, and other organizations in the United States and abroad. Gary is headquartered in Glendale, California. He can be reached at (818) 243-7338 or at: gary@customersatisfaction.com .

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