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Bill Bergeman


10 Ways to Make Amends When You F*ck Up

Last weekend, I messed up pretty bad with someone. I won't get into the details other than to say it was a mostly avoidable mistake on my part and a possible hit to my reputation had I not handled the situation.

Everything is good now. Before I straightened out the situation, I thought a lot about how I could make amends with the individual and, the result is the following list.

    1. First and foremost, apologize.

    Some people will say to never apologize as it can make you look weak and lose credibility. Perhaps. Even if that is true, I still think that if you offer an earnest apology it can actually put you in a position of strength.

    2. Never ever say, "I'm sorry *if*..."

    It drives me crazy when people apologize with the qualifier "if." "I'm sorry if you were offended...," or "I'm sorry if you felt bad..." are a couple of examples. By using the qualifier "if," you are sending the message that you were only in the wrong given the person felt they were wronged. Otherwise, you hold no responsibility for your actions, and therefore you aren't sorry at all.

    3. Be humble.

    This is not the time to elevate your own level of importance or push anything on the wronged person.

    4. Be direct.

    Don't beat around the bush. Identify your mistake and apologize with sincerity. Everything else is fluff.

    5. Propose at least one viable solution.

    Any apology is empty if it is not followed by a solution to your mistake. You made a mess, and now you have to explain how and when you are going to clean it up.

    6. Offer a path for avoiding the same mistake in the future.

    To help cement how serious you are about keeping the relationship strong, describe how you will avoid making the mistake again. Otherwise, you may allow for a small seed of distrust to take root in the wronged person's mind that has the potential to grow.

    7. Offer to do a favor for the wronged person above and beyond the solution.

    This item may seem like overkill, but I don't think so. If you are truly sorry, and you have a strong desire to maintain a positive relationship with the person you wronged, then why wouldn't you want to do something extra to make them feel good? Remember that you damaged the trust between you and the wronged person. Anything you can do to rebuild it is only going to benefit both of you.

    8. Reflect on how you made the mistake in the first place.

    This item is more for you than to make amends with anyone, but I think this is a good proactive step to help avoid the same thing happening again. Humans are creatures of habit, so while you may truly be sorry for a mistake you made, you did make it and whatever the cause for it could still be floating around in your swimming pool of habits. See if you can identify it and fish it out. This step might be better done before letting the wronged person know what your plan is to avoid the same mistake in the future.

    9. Follow through on your plan to not make the mistake again.

    Make sure whatever you communicated as the plan to avoid the mistake in the future is followed. If not, you will perhaps offend that person, another person, and very likely yourself, if you mess up again.

    10. Move on.

    Now that the damage is repaired, it's time for you to move on. Regret is a completely useless emotion. If you followed the steps above, you did as much as you could possibly do, and that's all we can ask of ourselves in life. Remember that you're human and therefore imperfect. To beat ourselves up over past mistakes is time wasted in the present. Be kind to yourself. Learn, move on, and live another day.

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