The ONE CRITICAL ELEMENT That Makes Change Happen
The ONE CRITICAL ELEMENT That Makes Change Happen
Last week, sadly, there was yet another mass shooting in the USA. For those who don’t know, the shooting happened at a club in Orlando, Florida, 50 people were killed and many others wounded. The shooting is being described as rooted in hate, based on the fact that it was a gay club and the shooter Islamic, with known intolerance for homosexuals.
In the wake of this event, once again, much is being said about the need for change. A fabulous video featuring many well known celebrities is going viral, noting that it’s time to demand a plan to deal with such violence. If you haven’t seen it, you can check out the link here:
In short, people all over are saying that it’s time for this sort of violence to stop, and that a plan must be made in order to facilitate this change.
To which I say: it’s not enough. A plan is a start, and nothing more.
Change cannot happen with a mere plan. A plan, when it comes right down to it, is nothing more than ideas on a page – at least, I hope they’re on a page because if they’re not written down somewhere, then it’s not even a plan, it’s just an idea.
In order for a plan to lead to change, there is one critical element that needs to come into play. This is true regardless of the merit of the plan. In other words, it doesn’t matter if the plan is mediocre, good or great. Without this element, the plan cannot – and will not – create change in and of itself.
The critical element is ACTION.
Until and unless action takes place, a plan will simply remain as that: a plan. And that’s not enough.
When I look at the world around us, and I see that these same sorts of events keep taking place, and I see individuals clamoring for change, and demanding a plan, I’m inspired by the realization that there are a lot of people committed to having things be different, better, safer. And yet, that commitment doesn’t seem to be enough to change things. If it were enough, these events wouldn’t be happening anymore.
So, what gets in the way? What’s present in the gap between a PLAN and corresponding ACTION? My best guess is that it’s fear: there’s a fear of hurting people’s feelings, of creating more angst, o getting it wrong.
I totally understand it; at the same time, the truth that’s staring us in the face is that without action, nothing changes. So it’s time to look fear in the face, take a breath, take a risk,, and take action, even if we get it wrong. If we get it wrong, we can course-correct. If we don’t take an action of any sort, however, then we remain stuck.
So, let’s extrapolate, shall we? Let’s apply this theory to your own world, to your family, to your business, to your organization. What thing do you want to see change? What plan have you created to kickstart that change? And more importantly, what ACTION have you taken – or will you take – to make that change reality?
Bottom-line: without action, a plan will not be effective. You can plan and coordinate and consider until you are blue in the face, but until you take some concrete action, nothing will actually change. Planning and action go hand in hand. Go ahead, make your plans. And, take action. It’s the only way to make a difference.
How Are You Changing the World?
So, over the course of my life, one of the things I’ve learned is that whether we intend to or not, each of us impacts the world around us. We all make an impression. We all change the world.
Not a single one of us can exist without making an impact, however small or great, however significant.
By virtue of being on the planet, we change the planet; we change our world.
Now, some of us do this in a grand way. It’s easy to see the difference and the impact that some people have. For most of us, the impact is less noticeable. And it’s still there.
I share this today, because I believe we all have an obligation – and an opportunity – to get just a little bit more deliberate in terms of the impact we’re having. We need to give more thought to the difference we’re making, and why we’re making it, and how.
A while ago, I read a quote – and for the life of me I can’t remember where it was or who said it. But it resonated, powerfully. Basically, the author suggested that instead of asking young folks what they want to be when they grow up, we are better off asking what problem they would like to solve. For me, this equates to the question of what difference do you want to make.
When was the last time you considered your impact? When did you last give thought to how you show up, and the difference you make on the world around you? I’ll bet it’s been a while. And I think it merits some thought.
Understand, the difference you make doesn’t have to be huge. And it doesn’t have to be onerous. It just has to be your contribution to the world. There’s something about getting really conscious and deliberate about the impact you’re having.
Bottom-line: you’re going to impact the world around you, whether you intend to or not. So get deliberate about it. And consciously choose how YOU will make the world a better place.
What to Do When Your World Comes to an End
I got the opportunity to witness the world come to an end for someone this week, and his corresponding reaction. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t pretty.
Let me be clear: I’m not talking about the devastating loss of a loved one; nor am I talking about a unexpected (or even expected) terminal diagnosis; I’m not even talking about a failure of some sort on this individual’s behalf.
Quite simply, his cell phone stopped working.
All of a sudden he was without the ability to text his people (colleagues, friends, family); he couldn’t make a quick and easy call; he couldn’t check his emails or online calendar; he couldn’t check social media to stay connected to world events; in short, he couldn’t do all the things that he was used to doing in any given moment of any given day.
He. Was. Freaking. Out.
Heart palpitations began; breathing was labored; he couldn’t figure out what the next day was going to look like (let alone the rest of the week) as his calendar and appointments were all on that device.
And it got me thinking; what the heck has our world come to?
Because here’s what I know for sure: his reaction wasn’t all that unique. I’ve actually witnessed similar reactions – and heard about others – from all people from all walks of life. Business executives; teenagers; parents; travelers; clients; colleagues; family.
It’s a little concerning, to tell the truth. Because in a world where cell phones are becoming so mainstream, they are bound to glitch out at the very least, if not conk out completely, from time to time.
So, what are our coping strategies? What can we be doing, how can we prepare ourselves, for the inevitable “end of the world” feeling?
Well, having been there myself on more than one occasion, I’ve got a thought or two. And, in my experience, they serve well. So let me share:
- For goodness sake, BREATHE. Hyperventilating and panicking helps no one, least of all yourself.
- Find some PERSPECTIVE. While it may feel like your world has come to a crashing halt, rest assured that it hasn’t. Worst case scenario, you’ll miss some vital communication – and, the world will keep spinning on its axis and life will go on.
- REACH OUT to your people through other means. Borrow a friend’s phone, hop on your computer, make your way to an internet café, or (can you even imagine it) use a land line to let the important folks in your life no what’s going on.
- EVALUATE the severity. Don’t assume that your phone is completely dead. It might be; or maybe the screen is just glitch; or maybe your phone needs a new battery. Or maybe you need a new phone.
- KNOW that there is a solution. It may not be quite what you were expecting or wanting in this moment, but there is a way forward.
- USE THE OPPORTUNITY to savour a tech-free moment or two. This is actually the perfect scenario in which you can discern exactly how dependent you are on your phone, AND what alternative ways exist for you to do what you thought could only be done with that handheld device.
Bottom-line: while the sky may not be falling in your world, rest assured there will be a time when your phone – or whatever other electronic gadget you rely on – breaks down. And Murphy’s Law pretty much guarantees that it will NOT be convenient, no matter when that occurs. That being said, it is not the end of the world, even though it might seem like it. Remember, this too shall pass. And in the meantime, you can use the time to do things that maybe you otherwise wouldn’t have had the time to do (like take a day off and go to the beach).
Taking a Stand? Or Digging in Your Heels?
As a leadership coach, I am privileged to bear witness as my clients discover the things for which they will take a stand. I then get to watch as they shift, grow and evolve into that space where they can take that stand, whatever it may be, with courage, conviction and in total alignment with who they are. It’s an awesome experience, for sure.
As a leader in my own right – one who’s at the helm of my own company as well as various organizations and groups – I find myself in situations where I too am challenged to take a stand. Sometimes I am asked to defend decisions or explain policy; sometimes it’s imperative for me to put a stop to a course of actions that misaligns with core values; sometimes I am required to create a container of sorts, in which difficult, messy conversations can happen in service of a bigger agenda. Each of these scenarios is, in one way or another, a version of taking a stand.
Over the past few weeks, as I have worked with the concept of taking a stand, I have been struck by the difference between “taking a stand” and “digging in heels”. I realize that for some people, these seem like similar concepts. And yet, my experience tells me that these are very different energetically. Moreover, the difference is profound in terms of the outcomes to be generated.
When you take a stand, you root yourself in a clear, solid understanding of what is at stake. From this place, you can engage in dialogue, ask questions as necessary, explore and stand in curiousity, all while being firmly anchored in whatever it is that you hold as truth. There’s a spaciousness and movement that’s possible when you take a stand. It’s a solid stance, without being rigid.
When you dig your heels in, however, rigidity and inflexibility are present in abundance. Perhaps counter-intuitively, you actually weaken your position, and close yourself off to possibility. When you dig your heels in – no matter the cause – you’re not actually anchored solidly. Instead, you’re brittle and easily “breakable” as it were.
Why do I make this distinction?
Because taking a stand over digging in your heels can mean the difference between moving forward or getting stuck. When you take a stand, you’re opening yourself up to a commitment. When you dig in your heels, you’re closing yourself off from any progress.
Bottom-line: being a leader of any sort – a parent, a teacher, a CEO, a coach, a manager (the list could go on forever) will require you to take a stand at some point. When that time comes, knowing the difference between taking a stand and digging in your heels will be vital. Taking a stand, in the truest sense of that expression, will always allow for growth and forward movement. Digging in your heels? That’s a sure-fire recipe for getting stuck.
So, You Say You Want to Change…
Growth. Evolution. Change.
On some level, as human beings we all know that these are inevitable – and indeed necessary – to the human experience. We understand that in order to become all that we’re meant to become, in order to reach our full potential (whatever that might be) change is part of the equation.
Theoretically, we all talk about embracing change and we purport to do so in service of the vision we hold for ourselves.
Practically, however, most of us navigate change while kicking and screaming at best, or by being dragged forcibly through the process at worst.
Goodness, humans can be a strange breed in this way.
You see, there is a gap (obviously) between the theory of change and the practice of change. There is an essential process that is necessary to the experience of change, and it is this process that we collectively, move often than not, resist.
What’s the process? The process of “doing things differently”. In other words, even though we SAY that we want to change and grow and evolve – even though we claim to understand the merits of change and growth and evolution – what we DON’T want, is to actually DO anything differently. 4
How counter-productive is that?
Einstein said it best when he said that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” The fact of the matter is, if you truly want things to be different – if you want to experience change to any degree, then you’ve got to be willing to DO things differently. Period.
The challenge is that, while we might understand this intellectually, we are creatures of habit. We really do get used to doing things a certain way and so, even though we want different results, we resist changing our patters in order to achieve those results.
Talk about making things difficult for yourself!
So, how can you navigate change with more grace? How can you do what needs to be done, to experience the change (whatever it is) that you want?
- Get clear on WHY you want to experience change in the first place. Understanding your rationale for having things be different can go a long way to helping facilitate change, when your habits run up against your desire.
- Enlist the support of others in your process. Have conversations about what you’re striving for and how you’re planning on achieving your stated outcome.
- Be gentle with yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for “slip ups” – but don’t allow yourself to keep slipping up, either.
- Give yourself time; change always takes time.
- Keep track of progress; notice subtle shifts and corresponding outcomes.
- Celebrate small changes, as you make your way toward the bigger picture.
Bottom-line: if you truly want to grow – you’ve got to embrace change. And when you truly embrace change, it means that you’re committing to a new way of being, of doing, of showing up. Lean into the newness; embrace it, don’t resist. And allow yourself to experience the joy of becoming something more than you are right now.
The Problem with Policies and Procedures
Years ago, I had a conversation with a colleague. For the life of me, I couldn’t tell you what the overarching topic was; so often, when she and I get together we chat about anything and everything. Many of the world’s problems are resolved when she and I sit in this co-creative space! At any rate, there was a specific moment when she said to me, “if you look at an organization’s policies and procedures, you’ll see the scar tissue of conversations that never happened.”
That was my reaction, and I still feel in awe of that statement. As a coach and facilitator who regularly works with and within organizations, I’ve seen the truth of this over and over again. A situation arises – a problem of sorts. Usually it’s fairly specific. Sometimes it’s a repeat scenario, and sometimes not. In either case, rather than address the scenario specifically – rather than having a conversation with the individual or individuals involved – a policy gets created. Moreover, if the policy-makers are honest, the policy is created in the hopes that those involved will simply understand the concern, and nobody will actually have to speak of it. No reprimand will be necessary. No conversation will be required.
This approach is counter-productive.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for policies of all sorts. The issue I’m wanting to shine the light on, is what happens before the policy gets created.
Too often, there is a gap between inciting event, and policy creation. What needs to be in that gap is a conversation. It could be a one-on-one conversation with a specific individual, or a more widespread conversation with a team or teams. Without that conversation, the policy has very little context, and there’s all sorts of room for misinterpretation.
So, what gets in the way of these conversations? That ever-pesky fear of conflict. Well folks, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: get over it. Seriously. Stop thinking of conflict as this big, bad monster to be avoided at all costs. Instead, when a difficult scenario arises, reframe the “conflict” as a “conversation”. The energy of conversation, even if it’s a heated one with a difference of opinion, can be super-productive. It clears the air. It removes any cause for speculation and second-guessing. Conversation serves organizations very well.
Now, here’s the unexpected bonus: the more pre-policy conversations you have, the fewer hard-and-fast policies are necessary in the long run. There may be some policies that get documented for the sake of providing a working framework, but not every issue will require a policy. Instead, open conversation will serve to keep the company/organization/group moving forward successfully.
Bottom-line: when sticky situations arise in the workplace, defaulting to policy-creation isn’t your best option. Instead, conversations need to happen, sooner rather than later. It may be that a policy arises out of said conversation. But if you create a policy without a conversation, rest assured, any resolution you experience will be temporary at best. A conversation, however, will lead to a lasting solution.
The Link Between Feedback and Success
In recent weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to write a bit about feedback. I’ve talked about how to give it, and how to receive it. I’ve covered why it matters and how it can support your growth and evolution.
What I haven’t talked about, is the ONE ESSENTIAL QUALITY that you must have when receiving feedback. Before I tell you what that quality is, let me tell you why it’s essential
As I’ve shared in a previous post, the purpose of feedback is to facilitate growth. Growth can look a lot of ways, but in a nutshell it’s always about becoming MORE. It’s about expanding your capacity and stretching into the biggest, best version of yourself, whatever that is.
As a leader of any sort – manager, business owner, CEO, administrator, parent – it is essential that you understand this. That being said, this knowledge isn’t sufficient in to ensure that the feedback does, in fact, facilitate growth. There is a particular quality that you must have when fielding feedback. The quality in question is that of CURIOUSITY.
When you stand in curiousity, you yourself are expressing commitment to your growth. Curiousity allows you to understand – fully – what is being said to you, and why. When you are curious in the face of feedback, you can discern whether someone is simply venting, or whether they are pointing you in a particular direction. You can determine whether what is being shared is simply a singular point of view, or the wisdom of many.
So, what is it to be curious? Well, it’s about asking questions instead of making statements. It’s about seeking clarification and understanding. Curiousity is the essence of learning. Curiousity allows you to cut through the emotions at play – whether yours or the person providing feedback – and hear the nugget which will allow you to become what you are meant to become.
When you are curious, you can truly decide how you will let this feedback inform your decisions going forward. Curiousity creates a space of possibility, and in this space, you can determine for yourself what is true, what aligns with your intention, and (perhaps more importantly) how you will respond.
Bottom-line: while feedback is an essential part of the growth and evolution experience, knowing how to receive feedback is vital. In order to receive feedback effectively, the key lies in getting curious. Get curious about what is being said to you, and you can respond in a way that truly serves.
What’s Your Response Buffer?
Human interactions can be fun to watch. Whether I’m talking witnessing myself in relation to others, or paying attention to others outside of myself, when I heighten my awareness of human relationships, it affords me the opportunity to line up whatever theoretical learning I might be soaking up in the moment, with real-life situations. One of the concepts that has been bubbling to the surface for me is that of “response buffers.”
Response buffers are those blocks of time between questions and answers, between requests and responses, between action and reaction. In the context of human relationships, I notice that people feel the need to respond to a request, a question, a situation, or an interaction IMMEDIATELY.
I’ve seen it and experienced it over and over again; someone makes a request or asks a question, and you barely allow yourself time to receive the information before responding. Something happens and you jump into action before the event has even completely come to a stop. Do you know what I’m talking about? If not, perhaps a few examples would help.
- You’re at work, and a coworker asks you to switch shifts with her. You agree without even checking your calendar, only to discover when you go home that you’ve got an appointment of your own on the day that you just agreed to work.
- Your child comes home from school and asks if she can “please, please pretty please go with her friend (who happens to be leaving RIGHT NOW) to the park to play for an hour” and you agree; only after she’s left do you remember that she was to clean her room before doing anything after school today.
- You’re at a meeting and giving a presentation; somebody raises a question to which you don’t have the answer, but since you don’t want to appear stupid, you make something up and hope to the high heavens that you’re at least on the right track.
In each of these cases, there’s a way that your “response buffer” is so small that you’re creating unnecessary angst in your life. So, what’s the solution? Increase your response buffer.
A short response buffer – characterized by the tendency to provide immediate responses to queries and situations – can get in the way of you making choices that actually serve the bigger picture of your life. Such small buffers are often created out of a belief that you either don’t have time to think, or that you must have the answer now.
Both of these beliefs are fallacies to some degree; there are very few life situations in which you cannot afford yourself a buffer of at least 5 minutes. Very few. And, simultaneously, when you’re someone who works with a longer response buffer in the general scheme of things, then in a truly time-sensitive situation, your brain is actually capable of making a quick decision that is more solidly grounded, because you’re not overwhelmed overall, and can actually make sound choices. Do you know what I’m talking about? Can you relate?
Here’s what I want you to understand: the time that is available to you between request and response is rich, fertile ground in which your power to choose, to create, to really align with what matters to you is available in abundance. When you act from constant urgency, you decrease this power of yours. Why do that? The power to choose is one of life’s greatest gifts. The more you avail yourself of this particular gift, the richer your life is.
When it comes to response buffers, one of the structures that I’ve seen used in many organizations is the “24-hour rule.” This rule basically states that no matter what the request, no matter what the circumstance, you will allow yourself 24 hours before you respond. Here are 3 solid reasons for using this paradigm:
- It allows for any emotion to dissipate, ensuring a grounded response.
- It gives you time to consider the circumstance from all angles, perhaps realizing some facets that you would have otherwise overlooked.
- It gives the situation itself time to resolve on its own – sometimes a request or inquiry doesn’t actually need your response; the 24-hour rule allows this to become apparent.
Granted, there are some genuine, emergency, need-your-attention-now circumstances in the world that you cannot hold up to the 24-hour rule. As I said earlier, however, these aren’t as many as you might think. In light of this, there’s something to be said for lengthening your response buffer.
Bottom-line: increasing the time between request and response can go a long way to decreasing the amount of stress, angst and overwhelm in your life. If 24-hours feels too long, no worries; start with a smaller buffer. But build a response-buffer nonetheless. There really is very little that truly needs your immediate response.
Talent Vs. Passion: Which One Do You Choose?
In the world in which we live most everybody questions why they’re here on earth. It’s an indicator of evolution as a human being. Barring the individuals who are outright lazy or feel no responsibility to the world at large, everyone wonders about their purpose in life to some degree.
Often, this questioning is linked to the whole “finding a career-path” experience. For me, it’s time to bust some myths in this regard. I want to lay waste to some common misconceptions that abound when it comes to
- a) figuring out your life purpose and
- b) determining what career path you’re meant to follow.
Often, emphasis is placed on finding a job, a career, or an employment opportunity that will meet your financial goals and obligations. This makes sense to a certain degree; I mean everyone has bills to pay, things to buy, activities to pay for. Having an income to allow for these expenses seems logical; and the place to get this income is from your job, right? For the most part I would agree.
But here’s the thing: the financial piece of the equation cannot be your only consideration. Most people know this. And so they look at the next logical question: can I do this? Do I have the skills? Am I capable of this job?
This series of questions, just like the question of finances, seems to make sense. Nobody’s going to pay you for something you can’t do, right? Right. Except for one little thing: while you may not be able to do something right now, you very likely can learn to do it. Most people, when they put their minds to it, can learn to do almost anything, within reason.
I make this point because one of the things I see over and over again is that there are plenty of people who are doing things they CAN do, and they still don’t feel fulfilled. You might be one of these people. You CAN do your job; in fact you may be absolutely brilliant at it. And you still feel less than happy overall. Why is that?
Well, here’s the critical question in terms of figuring out what you “should” (and you know how I feel about “shoulds”) be doing with your life: do you LOVE it? You see, if you line this question up with what I said in the previous paragraph – the fact that most people can LEARN to do anything – what you’ll quickly realize is that while you may not know HOW to do something right now, if you love it and you allow yourself time to learn how to do it well, then you’re actually on the path to fulfilling your purpose.
When it comes to career and life purpose, the mistake that so many people make is this: you tell yourself some cockamamie story that says if you’re good at a particular thing, then that must be what you’re meant to do with your life. What I want you to realize is that this isn’t necessarily so. The thing that you’re good at isn’t necessarily what you’re meant to do, or the purpose that you’re meant to fulfill. You might be great at math, but that doesn’t mean you’re meant to be an accountant. You might be great at healing social trauma, but that doesn’t mean that your purpose is necessarily found in the land of social justice. Instead the key indicator is always what I call the LOVE FACTOR. When you love something, when your heart is completely, 100% into a particular project or task, when you can connect with your bliss – that is what you are meant to do.
Let me make one thing clear, and this is critical. Your life purpose may not be found in your income-generating job. In other words, you may earn an income using a particular skill-set, but you may fulfill your purpose through another avenue. This is yet another misconception about life purpose: that somehow your life purpose has to be lived out through your professional career. Once you understand that life purpose and career aren’t necessarily one and the same (although they could be) and you understand that your purpose is to be found in the realm of “things you love to do” then you can truly decide which path to follow; you can decide what to do.
It is important to note that just because you love something, doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges. The fact that you love it, however, will allow you to navigate those challenges with a greater sense of ease than if you’re working away at something that holds less allure for you.
Bottom-line: when it comes to finding and fulfilling your life purpose, focus on the things you LOVE to do. You’ll recognize these things by the contentment you feel, the bliss you experience, the way you come alive. If you can align this with your professional career, great; this will definitely allow you the optimal fulfillment experience. But if you can’t, remember that so long as you can find an avenue to do and experience that thing you love, you will have found your purpose and you will find meaning in your life.
I’m Sorry, But…
Over the years I, like you and every other person on the planet, have had the opportunity to be on both the giving and receiving end of apology exchanges. In western society in particular, apologies are fairly regular occurrences: apologies for bumping into someone, apologies for misspeaking or interrupting, apologies for being late, apologies for being early – you name it, depending on your perspective, you can probably find a reason to apologize. Personally, I think that apologies are often over-used, thereby diminishing the power and sincerity that’s necessary to make the apology meaningful.
All that being said, however, the thing that I’m most curious about – the thing that I’ve been curious about for a very long time now – is how we as individuals receive apologies. Think about it. What’s the usual response you give when someone apologizes to you for something? If you’re honest, I’m willing to bet that you generally say some version of “It’s okay” or “Don’t worry about it” if you’re desiring to be gracious; or if you’re really ticked off or hurt, you may respond with some version of “Yeah, okay” or “whatever”. Anyway you slice it, these responses are inadequate. They don’t actually align with the purpose of an apology – which is for people to take responsibility for their actions.
Confused? Well, let’s backtrack for a moment and consider the impetus for an apology, before I clarify how I believe one can respond more effectively.
Apologies are generally given when an individual has either done or said something wrong, something that hurts another, or something that in some way had him or her fall short of expectations. Whether it is being late for an appointment, making a snide comment at someone’s expense, or physically injuring another, an apology is an individual’s attempt to
- a) acknowledge their mistake or take responsibility, and
- b) make amends before moving on.
So, when you hear an apology being given and you respond with a phrase similar to “that’s okay”, how does this align with the person taking ownership of their mistake? Imagine that your child has hit a playmate while at the playground. Knowing that she shouldn’t have done that, she apologizes to her friend, and then hears, “Oh, that’s okay.” What’s the message? The child knows – because she’s been taught – that hitting someone else is hurtful. And yet, her apology is being met with “that’s okay.” Really? Is it okay? I don’t think so. Such a response certainly doesn’t allow the apologizer to acknowledge her mistake and take responsibility. It lets her off the hook instead, which is a mixed message at the very least.
Similarly, had the injured party in the above scenario responded to the apologizer with a statement such as “Yeah, okay” or “Whatever”, there’s an implication that the apology is not being accepted. In other words, it doesn’t matter that the first child wants to make amends; the injured child won’t allow it. That’s the energetic subtext. Can you see what I’m talking about? Can you relate to times when you have experienced this disconnect, either as the giver of an apology or as a receiver?
If these typical responses aren’t in alignment with the intention of an apology, how else can you respond? Well, there is a really simple response that better aligns with the purpose of an apology. Simply put, the response that’s required is nothing more and nothing less than “thank you.” When someone apologizes, and you say “Thank you” the message is simple: “I accept that you feel badly, I appreciate that you’re trying to make this right.” And that’s it. You don’t need to absolve the person of their wrong-doing, you don’t need to make them feel better and you certainly don’t need to make them feel worse. You just need to meet them where they’re at. Why? Because it keeps the interaction clean, clear and honest. It allows both of you to move past the experience with grace, without any sense of how moving forward might look. That’s a whole different conversation. And that, after all, is the point of the apology.
Admittedly, there are additional factors to consider when it comes to apologizing. For example, someone who repeatedly apologizes but never changes the associated action calls into question the sincerity of the apology. I mean, it’s not enough to accept responsibility for your behaviour if you’re not going to change that same behavior. The apology becomes meaningless. And as a result, it’s challenging to express gratitude for that sort of an apology. So, when you’re giving an apology for the same scenario over and over again, as the giver of said apology it really behooves you to ask: what are you apologizing for? And what are you actually willing to change?
Bottom-line: apologies are not meant to be taken lightly. They are not to be given lightly, and they are not to be dismissed readily. Instead, thought must be given both by the giver and receiver of an apology. As the giver, know why you’re apologizing and do so with sincerity and commitment to not have to deliver the same apology again. And when receiving an apology, remember that your job is to do so with grace; express gratitude without either minimizing the hurt or making it bigger than it need be. An effective apology is about both the giver and the receiver. Give with sincerity, receive with grace. This is the way to make apologies work.