EP 30 // How to Apologize and Practice Compassion

Ep 30

Do you want to learn how to apologize effectively as a Leader?

A lot of people find apologizing difficult. But it's an important skill to learn, especially if you're a leader in your company or organization. Apologizing is about much more than just saying the words, "I'm sorry." It starts with learning to look inward and see your impact on others.

In this episode of the Open Door Conversations podcast, Akua will be talking all about how to apologize as a leader. We all make mistakes, and it's important to learn how to apologize with compassion and sincerity. She'll share some tips on how to make amends and also discuss the importance of forgiveness in both personal and professional relationships. 

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What's Covered in this Episode About Emotional Intelligence

  • Why learning how to engage with others and your team creates incredible results for your business
  • Emotional intelligence and the role it plays in creating a successful workplace
  • Diving deep into why it's hard to apologize and do as a leader for yourself and your team
  • Intent does not trump impact when apologizing to your team or your clients
  • The differences between men and women in the apology space
  • Why validating an experience is important and not minimizing how someone felt
  • Creating a safe space and value of trust for your team
  • The 6 core components of an effective apology to keep in mind

Quotes from this Episode of Open Door Conversations

  • "If your words or actions have hurt someone, regardless of whether or not you intended them to, you owe them apology and apology." - Akua Nyame-Mensah

  • "Anything that includes a but or an IF doesn't feel like a real apology, in my opinion, and based on some of the research that I did, and none of the phrases above actually work to validate the experiences of the other person." - Akua Nyame-Mensah

  • "We all offend people, we even sometimes offend ourselves. And at some point in time, I will actually put together a podcast episode about self compassion and self forgiveness, because I think that's even more important." - Akua Nyame-Mensah

  • "To be a successful leader, you need to learn how to harness the abilities of others, you need to learn how to engage with others. And to be able to do this and to be able to create those incredible results for your company in your businesses." - Akua Nyame-Mensah

Mentioned in How to Apologize and Practice Compassion

Get to Know the Host of the Open Door Conversations Podcast

Learn more about your host, Akua Nyame-Mensah.

Akua is a certified executive and leadership coach, recognized learning and organizational development facilitator, speaker, and former startup executive. 

Since 2018, she has had the opportunity to partner with amazing organizations, from high-growth startups to multinational brands all around the world, to maximize people, performance, and profit.  Outside of her coaching and corporate speaking engagements, she is a regular mentor, coach, and judge for various entrepreneurship-focused organizations.

Stay in touch with Akua Nyame-Mensah, Leadership & Culture Advisor:

  • Read about Akua’s services if you’d like to learn more about how you can hire her to help you strengthen your organization’s culture.

  • Complete her contact form to jump on a call.

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Here’s the transcript for episode 30 about How to Apologize and Practice Compassion

NOTE: Please excuse any errors in this transcript; it was created using an AI tool. Akua Nyame-Mensah 0:07 Welcome to the open door podcast. My name is Akua Nyame-Mensah. I also respond to Aqua and yeah, I'm a certified executive and leadership coach recognised facilitator and former sort of leader that loves supporting reluctant buyer fighting and overwhelmed leaders. I've worked with them to help them clarify where they should focus their time, and energy each and every day so that they can love themselves, love their work, and ultimately love their life. If you're looking to learn leadership information and hear different perspectives, you are in the right place. My aim in this podcast is to help you see that one of the most productive and profitable things you can do is deeply understand yourself. Understand how you show up, understand how you thrive, and allow yourself to align everything in your work in your life, and in your business to support that, think of this podcast as your weekly opportunity to receive leadership support. And remember, there is no one right way to lead yourself or others. Thank you so much for taking the time to join me today. Let's get started. Hello, and welcome to the open door conversations podcast. In today's episode, I'm gonna be talking all about how to apologise, and for giveness. So if you've ever thought to yourself, hey, like, I don't need to forgive people, I don't need to learn to apologise, I'll be able to get things done. That's just how things are. This is the podcast episode for you. And this is such an important topic to me and something I've been really thinking about since starting my practice, because there are so many things that I can reflect on and remember myself doing because I didn't know any better. But that doesn't mean that I shouldn't have taken the time to recognise, to acknowledge that it maybe wasn't the best strategy, the best way to engage or the best way to set expectations. So as a leader learning to apologise is a crucial skill. All right, we all offend people, we even sometimes offend ourselves. And at some point in time, I will actually put together a podcast episode about self compassion and self forgiveness, because I think that's even more important. And that's something that I'm still trying to learn how to do better. I am incredibly hard on myself. But I really think that to be a successful leader, you need to learn how to harness the abilities of others, you need to learn how to engage with others. And to be able to do this and to be able to create those incredible results for your company in your businesses. It's so important that you recognise that you can't build an empire, you can't build a business, you can't build a career alone. And so we all and this is me included because I could do better at this need to learn to skillfully leverage the talents of others to collaborate and build something bigger than ourselves. And because we're human beings, and we're not perfect, right? When we're working with other people, it's likely that things are going to come up right that we might have to deal with emotions that are difficult to talk about that are difficult to communicate, right. And so because of this conflict is going to happen if people are involved conflicts going to happen at some point in our careers or some point in our businesses. And what I will do is I will make sure that I link actually to a blog post all about how to deal with emotions in the workplace, and how important it is for us to become more emotionally intelligent. So I'm sure you've had one of these moments. Maybe you've lost your cool in a meeting, maybe that you've done something to tick off a member of your team or your boss or an investor. Or maybe you got some news that was upsetting. And you end up getting mad at your subordinates or people who are supporting you. We all do it in moments like this. Do you find that it's difficult to apologise? Or do you find that it's difficult to acknowledge that you've done something that maybe had an impact on somebody else? Do you find yourself holding grudges both against yourself and others? All right. If any of those things resonated with you, this is going to be I think, a really important podcast episode for you to listen to. So let's talk a little bit about why it's so hard to apologise right? Let's start there. And we'll also talk about why it's incredibly important as a leader to make sure your apology lands well for those around you. So let's dive deeper into why it's so hard to apologise and why it's incredibly important that as a leader, you will learn how to make sure your apology lands well with those around you and those who are supporting you. So let's get into this first thought why Why is it so hard for us to apologise? Right? Saying sorry is so hard for some people, right? So I'm a woman and I can apologise, apologise I say sorry a lot. I actually just recently did a hashtag remarkable session where the internet was going in and out. This has never happened to me, right? I've been doing these sessions for the last three years, I've done over 50 of them. I have never had an instance where I had more than one time where my internet cuts off and it goes off. And I apologise so much that somebody actually sent me a WhatsApp message and was like, Yo, like, you're over apologising, like it's too much, right? So there's different situations, these show up in different ways. But at the end of the day, right, so beyond some of those situations, as humans, none of us enjoy admitting that we're wrong, it feels uncomfortable, it feels vulnerable. And sometimes it feels like we're admitting guilt, like it's our own fault, right. And because of this, we often leave it up to others to simply get over it, rather than show up in an authentic leadership way. Right, rather than acknowledge it right and admit where we went wrong. So I want you to remember this incredibly important piece when it comes to apologising. And this is something that I always try to remind myself when I am doing something that can be construed in a certain way, or showing up in a way that actually is not typically how I show up. And that statement is intent does not Trump impact. And I'm sure you can Google that. And you'll probably come up a lot of different articles in relation to that. But it's so important. And I even have this down in my notes. And I've actually highlighted it, it's in capital letters. I actually did a live about this about a year ago. And it was so important for me to say this because it is such a hard thing for us to keep in mind. intent does not Trump impact. When it comes to apologies, you often may not even recognise you need to apologise in the beginning, you might not even be aware you've done something to hurt someone. And it doesn't matter if that person goes out of their way to tell you or to communicate to you that something has happened or they felt a certain way, it's so important for you to be able to show up and engage. Okay, so if your words or actions have hurt someone, regardless of whether or not you intended them to, you owe them apology and apology. And that's something that I try and practice I'm trying to get better at it. I'm not 100% at it, you listening to this might disagree and say, hey, it's situational or context based, but I'd really love for you just to reflect on that thought, right? Intent doesn't trump impact. And each and every single one of us can interpret things in different ways, might not really understand what you're trying to get at. But that doesn't mean that we can't acknowledge that someone could have been negatively impacted by something we said, or the way in which we showed up. So I know that can be a tough pill to swallow. And our egos sometimes like to get in the way and tell us well, I didn't mean to hurt you or shouldn't have to apologise, you know, I'm sorry. But remind yourself intent doesn't trump impact. And there are so many different reasons why we find it difficult to apologise. And a lot of these do have to do with the way in which we're socialised. Or conditioned, or even the people around us potentially, and how we sort of decide what our identities are in the world as we show up. So we may find it difficult to apologise because one, we're not concerned about the other person. So this might seem harsh, but we come to decisions about whether or not we're going to respect someone, listen to someone invest in someone in seconds. Like we do this so quickly. And we do this subconsciously. And so sometimes we fail to apologise because we simply don't care about the impact on the other person. And I can definitely tell you, there has been times where I actually think this to myself. And if you do just know that it's actually natural as human beings, right, we really put people into categories really quickly. And just because we do that, right, just because that's our maybe normal normal way of operating doesn't mean that we should and doesn't mean that we shouldn't take a second to really reflect on how we're showing up and how we're impacting others. Another reason why we might find it difficult to apologise is because we feel that apologising hurts our self image. So if you are potentially in a leadership position, or you feel like because of your gender or the role you're playing, you might feel like apologising will diminish your credibility or make you seem weak, right? And you really worry how the action appears to others. And what you don't recognise is that you could be undermining your authority. You really could be undercutting people's loyalty by not taking the time to acknowledge and apologise All right, another thing that might be showing up for you and this is up to you to decide right in my mind A podcast episodes, I'm not telling you what to think I'm just sharing different perspectives of what could be coming up and things potentially that could be getting in your way. So if you're working somewhere where you think to yourself, it's not culturally appropriate to do so you may limit the opportunities you have within that organisation or with that individual. And just really recognising that what works in one context may not work in another. So you need to ask yourself, right, hey, the fact that I come from this place where apologising to certain people or in certain ways is not the norm is that really going to get me to where I want to go based on where I've decided to live, where I've decided to work or who I've decided to engage in. Another thing that's quite interesting that I wanted to make sure I touched upon is recognising that for a lot of people refusing to apologise is actually a learned behaviour. So really reflecting on the dynamics within the household you grew up the family you might have had the friends you had around, you really might be an interesting way to see whether or not this has had an impact on how you're showing up now. So you might have a difficult time expressing apologies in your professional life because this was not something that you saw in your personal life. Once again and I mentioned this a bit before we could also learn this from you know societal or gender norms, right. So for example, and I've mentioned this with my example recently of over apologising as a woman, we tend to over apologise, whereas men often have a tougher time offering apologies. And they sort of go to this idea that oh, they know, I didn't really mean to hurt them. And I don't really need to apologise or if that's like a, you know, a female, feminine thing to do, recognising all of those stories may not be serving you. Another thing that definitely comes up and this is something that really resonates is that apologising makes us feel guilt and shame, and we don't want to feel bad. So by apologising, we are admitting to doing something that hurt another person. This does not make us bad people, right. And so many people think that apologising makes them a bad person, and having to say sorry, or feeling like you have to say sorry, may bring up feelings of guilt and shame that we simply don't want to feel. But once again, it may be important for us to feel it. Okay. And then last but not least, sometimes we're too wrapped up in a workplace power dynamic. And so this goes back to this idea that our egos may really get in the way. And so recognise that there is more that meets the eye when it comes to apologising. And there's so many potential reasons why you or those around, you may struggle with this key interpersonal skill. But if you really want to build something bigger than yourself, if you really want to be a leader, that's able to step up into a thought leader position that's really able to have relationships with their team and investors and clients, it's really important that you take the time to really reflect on how to apologise, and and really how to engage with others. So that, you know, you can come and keep moving forward and the people who are supporting you can keep moving forward as well. So let's get to the second part of this podcast episode where I wanted to talk a little bit more about how to actually do this, I wanted to make this a little bit more tangible. Because like I mentioned before, this is something that I'm also working on, and that I will continue to work on as well. So the most important thing to remember when it comes to apologising is to validate the experience of the other person, as I've said multiple times intent doesn't trump impact, right? So it's not about saying, Hey, I'm guilty of this, it's simply just to validate and to acknowledge that you had an impact on someone else, whether or not you intended to if someone and once again, as I mentioned earlier, not everyone's always going to feel comfortable to actually voice this concern or communicate this. But if someone is brave enough to come forward, try to be vulnerable, if it's the right situation in the right space, and let you know, let them know that you know that you've hurt them and that you're showing that you also hear them as well. And once again, you do this regardless of whether or not you're meant to hurt them, okay. And if you get defensive or deny their experiences, or wander into the realm of toxic positivity by saying things like, Oh, stop worrying about that, or I didn't mean anything about it that also potentially could come across as gaslighting. And what I will do is put a link in the show notes actually to a blog post about toxic positivity in the workplace where people say things like, oh, let's just get back to being positive, right? We're not really dealing with the situation, we're sort of just covering it up in a way that might lead to issues down the line. We are not creating a safe work environment, we are not creating that psychological safety. And over time, this resentment will build up and your teammates and your team members and people who work with you and your clients will stop showing up for you and stop doing their best work because they don't feel valued and they don't feel heard. And ultimately, what will that lead to that will lead to a deficit right and your bottom line will suffer. So what does being dismissive of others sound like? Alright, and I want to give you some examples, just in case, this is something that comes up for you. Once again, as I mentioned before, I'm not perfect, this is still something that I actually work through. So dismissive phrases might sound like, I'm sorry, you feel that way. I'm sorry, you misinterpreted what I said, I'm sorry. But what about the time you did X? What about the time you did why, or it's actually your fault that I did X. So all of those are quite dismissive ways to respond to someone that went out of their way to let you know that you might have heard them and went out of their way to let you know that something you did or said had an impact on them. All right. Overall, anything that includes a but or an IF doesn't feel like a real apology, in my opinion, and based on some of the research that I did, and none of the phrases above actually work to validate the experiences of the other person. And stead, you can work on using such phrases as I apologise for x, I was wrong, I plan to change my behaviour by doing X, Y, or Z. Right. So really recognising that you are validating their experiences, you're acknowledging them, because at the end of the day, that's typically what's most important. So let's dive a little bit deeper into the structure of a successful apology. As I mentioned before, I was trying to make this as tangible as possible. And so what I've done is I've done a bit of research, I will make sure that I link some stuff in the show notes, if you want to lead learn a little bit more. But what I did is I found that there were six basic core components of putting together an effective apology as a leader. And I think that anyone listening to this, whether you're a founder or CEO, or an intern, and just starting out, these are important pieces that I think you should learn, and that you need to keep in mind moving forward, and maybe even might be helpful in your personal life as well. So according to this research by some psychological scientists, in order to make sure your Apology accepted by the other party, these are six sort of steps that you might want to keep in mind, one, an expression of regrets to an explanation of what went wrong based on your perspective, three, probably most importantly, an acknowledgement of responsibility for or a declaration of repentance, right. And that can look very different for everyone. Five offer of repair, and six a request for forgiveness. All right. So I know there's a lot of steps in here and every single time you have a conversation, you might not need all these steps. But this might really be a great starting point and framework for you to think about how to have some of those difficult and hard conversations, once you've realised or once someone has actually come to you to let you know that you've had an impact on them that maybe wasn't positive. Alright. So at the end of the day, it's so important that we think about these six key components, as well as communicate our apology in a language that will resonate with the other person, right? So really recognising, and really trying to keep in mind this person that you may be heard, what's going to resonate with them, what's potentially important to them, what might you want to mention, and you really want to make sure that you customise your apology, right, based on that person and recognising once again, that people interpret things differently. And so there may be space, or it may be necessary for you to reflect on whether or not that apology is not accepted, right, you cannot control how they respond to that. But overall, I hope that these were some helpful tips and that this podcast episode just gave you an opportunity to reflect on maybe how you're showing up and how you might be impacting others. As I mentioned before, this is really something that I've been thinking about over the last three years, and something that I know that I'm working on. But at the end of the day, if we want to show up and be leaders who are authentic, and are vulnerable and really want to make sure that we're keeping our team's best interests at heart. We really must learn to apologise and be able to connect with our teams in this way where we're acknowledging and validating that we're human beings, we're going to make mistakes, but we can also work through them so that we can get to that next step right so that we can work together. And so when we mess up and we hurt those around us intentionally or otherwise, being able to apologise, I think is such an important piece. All right, thank you so much for taking the time to listen. I hope that you found this helpful and that you are doing well. Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to today's episode. If you enjoyed what you heard today, please share it with your friends. We can continue this conversation on social media the links to my socials so that is LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. You can find them in the show notes. If you tagged me in a story and include the hashtag hashtag ask Akua I will share a special little gift with you. Thank you so much once again for your time and I cannot wait to share my next episode with you stay safe and sane.


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