As much as we all like NCIS, Leroy Jethro Gibbs is absolutely wrong on this one. Apologizing is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. And more importantly, it’s a sign of someone’s commitment to a relationship.
One of the things I’ve always taught the leaders I’ve led or coached is to always apologize (though, unfortunately, not all have listened and practiced this). To me, apologizing is such an easy thing to do—yet so few people are willing to do it—which makes absolutely no sense to me because the words are so easy, “I’m sorry,” and the impact is so great. Why would you not?
One of the top executive coaches in our nation is a man named, Marshall Goldsmith. He coaches the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. And listen to what he has to say about this topic.
“I regard apologizing as the most magical, healing, restorative gesture human beings can make. It is the centerpiece of my work with executives who want to get better.”
I love that! Listen to those words again. Don’t forget them. “[It is] the most magical, healing, restorative gesture human beings can make.” Amen!
Of course, the opposite is also true. Not apologizing is one of the most destructive, relationship-severing and unhealthy gestures human beings can make. And as you’ve seen in some experiences we’ve gone through over the years, not apologizing can literally sever hundreds of relationships for good.
The two of you are now past the stage of your parents saying, “Now, apologize to your sister!” At this point, it’s up to the two of you to make the following choice.
- Am I going to be someone who’s humble enough to apologize freely in order to restore relationships?
- Or am I going to be one of those proud people who cares more about preserving my ego than my relationships? That is a critical question.
Now, you may be wondering, “What if I didn’t do anything wrong?” Well, if that’s the case, apologize for what you can. Remember, perception is reality (and the relationship is what matters). So if someone feels you’ve done something wrong, at least say something like, “I’m sorry that when I said … it communicated to you … I value our relationship and hope you’ll accept my apology and we can move forward …” (or something to that effect).
There are only a few times in life when you’ll probably have to make a decision to not apologize (you did nothing wrong and they clearly did). But for the most part, I’d recommend living by the rule of this lesson, “Always apologize.”
If you choose to do that, you’ll build far more relationships, have far less conflict, and be known as a peace-maker. And as Marshall Goldsmith hints at—you’ll leave behind you a whole trail of people who will have encountered, “the most magical, healing, restorative gesture [a] human being can make.”
Gibbs is wrong. Always apologize!