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Ines Temple: Five Steps to an Apology

Original Spanish version published in El Comercio newspaper (Peru) on April 15, 2018

Some time ago, I made a mistake, which like all of the mistakes we make, was completely involuntary and unexpected. What happened? Trying to inspire as I always strive to do, I gave my opinion on a sensitive issue without taking the necessary precautions. It was not right. This had never happened to me before because I was always very careful about how I expressed myself out of respect for the different audiences.

Well advised, I apologized that very afternoon —and I did so sincerely, with all the humility and respect that I could. I think my apology helped to lessen the impact of my words a bit on those who unfortunately felt affected by them.

This mistake left me with many personal lessons and teachings, some of which I have mentioned above and others which I am still processing. But, perhaps one of the most important things that came out of this was the great value of knowing how to apologize in an appropriate way and at the right time. I share with you some of these lessons.

1) It is important to recognize and accept our mistakes and to assume all their consequences, without trying to play down any impact they may have had. And when we apologize, it is vital that we never offer vain apologies that aim to justify or minimize our mistakes, much less blame others for them, directly or indirectly.

2) Own up to our mistakes. Hiding or waiting for time to go by, so that things can blow over or calm down on their own is not an option. Of course, there is a best time for everything, but the sooner we assume our mistakes and apologize, the better

3) It is very important that we face our responsibility for the consequences that our mistakes may have caused, even if it is not easy to do so. Of course, it is equally important that we do everything needed to lessen their possible impacts with solidarity and kindness towards all involved, if possible.

4) When we apologize, it is vital that we express our concern for those affected by our mistakes or their consequences with warmth, respect, and much empathy. This can sometimes be difficult, especially if the people we affected are feeling hurt or upset. Of course, we worry about making things worse if our apology goes wrong or if the time is still not right, but I think that if it is given sincerely, it is usually well received.

5) It is important to mention the measures we will take to try to avoid the same mistake. And that must be part of our respectful apology as well as to our personal commitment to our process of growth and development as adults and professionals.

Pride often gets in the way of our apology —it is hard to put it to one side in order to apologize both personally and professionally. A well-given apology requires a genuine act of contrition and a lot of humility. It is never easy to apologize, but I learned how important it is to always do it with deep respect for all and, especially, from the heart.

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