One of my big bugaoo's is the apology. The half-hearted, meaningless, "If I offended anyone..." or "Hey, sorry about that." Every once in a while, I like to take apart some pseudo-apology that a public figure makes for an egregious offense and analyze it sentence-by-sentence in a BobSeminar™, as I did here.
(Or an apology like, "Hey, there are too many typos in the book, and if you bought a Kindle edition, I'll send you a free one...)
Well, now comes a terrific article by my friend, the wonderful Nell Minow, on the concept of mistakes. At its core, it's somewhat from a business perspective, but she widens it a bit to take in the subject more universally. Nell deals with a lot of issues connected to them -- how to avoid them, as much as possible, and listening to what your mistakes are telling you about yourself, among other things -- but also how to apologize for them.
Nell is a kindred spirit on the subject, and she and I have discussed such things. So, it was not a surprise, but a complete pleasure when she wrote, "Take full responsibility for mistakes with a sincere and gracious apology and whatever steps are necessary to repair or clean up the mess. Full accountability for a mistake is the best way to reprogram yourself to avoid that mistake in the future. It is necessary not just for your relationship to the affected parties but for your sense of yourself as a capable and worthy person. You don't need to grovel. But do not try to qualify it."
The whole piece is wonderful, and for a subject that could come across like a moralistic lecture in lesser hands, never does here. Rather, she deals with the subject of making mistakes from a perspective she often uses in her world-class business analysis -- from the real-world standard of being a parent. For instance, when she writes about giving incentives to people for their actions, she says, "Give a 1-year-old spaghetti and there will be an adorable mess. Give the same 1-year-old ice cream and there will be less mess. Even a baby will be more careful if the payoff is more sugary, creamy deliciousness."
(Related side note: one of my favorite Nell Minow Stories™ is the time she -- as a corporate governance expert -- attended a stockholders convention and got up to ask a question of the Board. When the chairman saw who it was, he rolled his eyes. Uncowed (Nell is never coved), she shot right back at him -- "Rolling your eyes at me has no effect. I raised two teenagers."
You can read the whole thing here.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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