Sheldon Mills: welcome to habit masters. I'm Sheldon.
Jeff Corrigan: -I'm Jeff.
Sheldon Mills: And we have an exciting, episode. They're all exciting. We are going to talk about the anatomy of a perfect apology and why so many times people when they apologize are actually terrible apologies and make things worse.
, it's going to be a good one today.
Jeff Corrigan: I agree. It is awesome. And as a part of that, Sheldon, we should mention if you haven't joined our Magic Monday newsletter yet, this episode is directly related to a newsletter that Sheldon wrote for Magic Monday that was totally awesome.
, if you haven't checked that out, we'll put it in the show notes and you can check it out. And subscribe if you haven't yet because every week you're going to get a golden nugget. And in addition to that, we are kicking off something that I think you're going to love. . Call it your toolkit for putting these things into practice. So we're going to deliver free PDFs as often as possible that go along with our newsletter or our podcast or both that you can download for free, print out if you'd like, and there will be a portion of that that you can stick on your fridge or something to help you remember the steps to take and put these things into practice in your life and see the benefits.
Sheldon Mills: Yeah. We're always talking about where's the rubber hit the road. Right. And so it's dawned on us. It's funny how sometimes it takes forever that , let's make this bite size digestible. So again, every PDF is going to have a small printable that's just like bullet pointed just to remind you and then kind of like a rundown also as well.
So yeah, we're excited about
Jeff Corrigan: this.
Yeah. Not full length eBooks. It's a quick reference guide, , to remind you, Oh, these are the steps to put this into practice because , after all the years that Sheldon and I have been studying and putting into practice and taking courses and reading all the books we can, one of the things that we noticed is that a lot of times they'll give out information, but then It's kind of hard to find that information again, like, Oh yeah, I just needed the nuggets to remind me what I needed to do.
What were the action steps to practice this on a regular basis? So what we want to deliver for you is taking all these complex principles and putting them into essentially. Bullet point lists to help you remember, Oh, these are the steps to help me implement this thing in my life. Yeah.
Whenever you need them.
Sheldon Mills: , so let's, let's kick this off, Jeff. , you had a story I think you should share about apologizing and the power of apology.
Jeff Corrigan: Yes. So my wife, , before we were married, we had started dating, but I wasn't fully focused on one girl.
So I had, you know, a couple of girls that I was dating. And at one point I had gone on a date with another girl When I was supposed to have gone out with her. We weren't exclusive at the time.
So don't get me wrong. I wasn't like, cheating or anything. It was
Sheldon Mills: ditched her to go on a date with somebody else?
Jeff Corrigan: A date with somebody else. I ditched her to go on a date with somebody else. And she found out about it. the next day and was very upset and didn't want to talk to me anymore. And honestly, guys, like to the core of my soul, I knew that was going to be the worst thing that ever happened to me.
, that's when I knew that I wanted her to be my wife because I was so certain that I didn't want to date anyone else, right? Like she was the one for me. So at that point I mustered all my courage well, I, I should say, I, I didn't muster all my courage.
I mustered all my humility to call her and apologize, and I spent over an hour apologizing and telling her in reality that, no one else mattered. She was the one for me. And it was , that apology that I credit to her turning around and actually being willing to marry me even though I was an idiot.
So, I can tell you the power of a good apology is enough to
Sheldon Mills: Save a marriage! Yes! Or potential marriage.
Jeff Corrigan: Create a marriage, right? , so yes, I don't know how well I put that together, but in essence, I was an idiot. She I didn't deserve her. I went back humbly and apologized profusely. And it was probably the most sincere apology of my life.
And now we've been married more than 15 years, guys, , very happily. And it's a lot to practice, apologizing. Yes, and since then I've apologized many, many times. Thankfully not for anything like that, but for other smaller things. Of,
Sheldon Mills: I mean, that's a very poignant, powerful example, but we've all been on the receiving end at a great apology and terrible apologies, right?
And a real apology has power, I talked about this a little bit in my newsletter. Apologies, it's evidence of a society that honors, , people's experiences and thoughts and feelings like that. They're important, and apologizing actually shows wisdom. And character. , the people who can never apologize, it's like it shows their immaturity really.
Jeff Corrigan: Yeah. A lot of times we think that by apologizing, we're somehow showing weakness. And in fact, it's the exact opposite, right? , we're actually showing how much humility and, , wisdom we have by coming to and recognizing how we've impacted others. And being sincere in our apologies, because there's a whole lot of insincere apologies that happen out there because people think they have to apologize, right?
And so let's talk a little bit about both, Sheldon, like what makes up a bad apology and what makes up a great apology.
Sheldon Mills: Yeah, let's start with the things like terrible apologies, and then we'll get into anatomy of how to give a great one. Awesome. Here's one that I think is like so universal. I'm sorry you feel that way.
This is like the epitome of gaslighting. ? It's like the non apology of it's really your problem, not mine. Yeah, I think that's a huge one.
Jeff Corrigan: Yeah. I'm sorry you felt like I did this, or I'm sorry you felt like, yeah that's probably one of the most commonly used insincere apologies.
Sheldon Mills: I'm sorry you were offended. I'm sorry. Yeah. I think a close relative to that is , I regret, , it's not taking ownership, you know, that's like the corporate apology. We regret that this and that,
Jeff Corrigan: that this happened, right? Yeah. Anytime that you put ownership onto something or someone else, it's not a sincere apology.
Even if you have a valid reason, taking ownership is like, as we talked about so many times on the show, the first step. In being able to change something.
Sheldon Mills: Yeah. So this just came to mind. There's a movie that came out back in 2020 called Timmy failure. That was not heralded, but it was like a really good movie.
Jeff Corrigan: Wait, is that the one with the polar bear. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I've seen that one. Okay. Okay.
Sheldon Mills: Well, his tagline is like mistakes were made. Right. Yeah. And I don't know. So if you remember at the end, he finally quit saying , mistakes were made. And he gives like a real apology and takes real ownership for his actions to his mother.
Right. And it's really heartwarming and like touching. I want to go back and watch
Jeff Corrigan: it now. Yeah, wouldn't it be nice if a company at some point, and maybe
there have been some good ones over the years, but most of the time a PR person is just kind of putting words in the CEO's mouth when a business has to apologize for something, and it seems very insincere, what they really should say is, hey, here's what we did wrong, well, let's not talk about that yet, but essentially, there's a good way to do it, and some people do it,
Sheldon Mills: and you can. Some other examples of terribles. I'm sorry, but... I'm sorry, but so and so, I mean, this is a classic example with my kids. I'm sorry, but he did this and dah, dah, dah. I'm sorry, but this is, you know, , either you're blaming somebody else or something else, or it's like, it's just again, not taking responsibility, right?
Jeff Corrigan: Yeah. Either. So not taking ownership or responsibility. The other one, like you just said is, I'm sorry, but so really you're not sorry at all. Right. It's like, it's not even putting ownership on someone else. You're just basically like, I'm only apologizing because I feel like I have to. , so there's a lot of insincerity there of like, sorry, but, or I was just trying to help.
Yeah, exactly. Right. Like something like that. Any excuse that you can give. Yeah. The other one I think that's kind of interesting and a little bit deceptive is that when you put a transactional piece onto it, like, Hey, I'll apologize, but I want something in return. Yeah. A sincere apology doesn't require or have expectations of, some return, right?
It's like, sure, we're, the reason we're apologizing is because we'd like to be forgiven, right? But that's actually not a great way to apologize. We should apologize because we want the other person to know That we know that we've done something wrong, right? The other day even,
my daughter and I were having a little spat about something going to bed. She's four years old, so. And you know, as an adult, you think that you can always keep your composure, but I don't. Okay, there you go. Confession time.
I'll take ownership. I'm not always the best. Trying to justify it, right? So , I apologized to her and then at the end, it was like, you know, nicely like a little dad would saying, Oh, do you forgive me? And you know, thankfully she said yes. But as I've learned more about apologizing and giving a good apology, I realized how that's not necessarily insincere, but it is transactional.
It's saying like, Hey, I really want you to forgive me. Versus just apologizing and then letting them sit with it. And if they choose, forgive you. Yeah, it's a gift. Because I mean, how many people are going to say no? Especially if it's a sincere, genuine apology. Right. Like, of course, they're going to say yes, even if they don't want to forgive you.
So, by posing that question, you're actually taking away from them the ability to give you the gift of forgiveness back in a sincere way. So.
Sheldon Mills: Yeah. And it's like all of a sudden, again, it's taking away from the apology of admitting that you did something wrong. And it's like, you're putting this burden on them to try and make you feel better.
Jeff Corrigan: Yeah. Now you've put them in a position where they're like, Oh, now I have to make you feel better after you just,
Sheldon Mills: yeah.
Jeff Corrigan: Yeah. Good point. Okay. So let's move on to the anatomy of a good or even a great apology. What do we need to do to do this better in the future, Sheldon?
Sheldon Mills: Right. So, there are six and a half, six, seven steps, depending on how you look at it. Let's just, read them all in order and then we'll dissect each one.
Does that sound good? Perfect. Okay. The anatomy of a good apology is one, say you're sorry. Two, for what you did. Three, show understanding of why it was bad, right? Why it was wrong. Three and a half, if necessary, explain what happened. But don't make excuses.
This one's is really important. We'll dig into this one a little bit more. That's why it's the three and a half. Four, explain what you'll do to keep it from happening again. Five, fix it. If you can try, try and rectify the problem. And then six, listen and learn.
Jeff Corrigan: Love it. Number one, pack these a little bit. Yes. Yes.
Sheldon Mills: Say, okay, this is good. Apologize. Say, I'm sorry, or I apologize. Again, going back to this, like, I regret that, you know, it's like the non apology.
Jeff Corrigan: Yes. I'm sorry. I apologize. And then the next step, which really comes right after is. for the thing that I did, right?
Yes. Because honestly, a sincere apology really requires you to understand what it is you did wrong, right? And then later to understand how that impacted another person or other people negatively.
Sheldon Mills: Yeah. Specifying what it is is important, right?
Sometimes people apologize, but it's kind of like this general nebulous apology. And it's a way of not taking ownership for , I did this thing and I am apologizing for, you know, Calling you a something, right? Oh, yeah.
Jeff Corrigan: , but you're right. And I think a lot of times we get caught in this web of we're constantly apologizing.
Like people say sorry all the time, but I don't think they're actually apologizing for anything. It's just like, oh, so sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. It's like, sorry for what? When we get specific about it, and we truly are sorry about something we've done, right? Or said, or. You know, whatever the thing may be, or even been a part of, honestly,
Sheldon Mills: that brings up an interesting thing.
Sometimes I probably a little bit guilty of this, of don't say sorry so much. Right. Cause someone will say, sorry, I'm like, for what? Yeah. And they'll stop and think and be like, uh, well, if you didn't do anything, you're actually sorry for it. Then you don't need to say sorry.
Right. Instead of it being like a polite thing that's, yeah.
Jeff Corrigan: It's almost become just a cultural norm to say sorry before, and oftentimes say sorry before you do the thing. So third is really demonstrating your understanding, of what you've done wrong.
So not only, okay. Hey, sorry for doing this thing wrong. And then understanding the impact that it has. And how it caused you blank, right? In essence, you're taking full ownership of the fact that, Hey, something I did caused you some kind of physical, mental, emotional harm or distress.
Sheldon Mills: Yeah. This is like proof that you actually under, I mean, if you could do the first two, right.
If you get the third one and do it right, like this is like a golden apology. This is demonstrating that you understand the impact of what you did, right? And how it impacted the other person, the ramifications and all that. So this is very critical to owning we talk sometimes, I mean, in most situations, especially let's say in relationships and things like that it's never completely one person's fault. Right. And I think we can get bogged into, you know, did this because of this, but it's not really 100%. Like a good apology doesn't take away from the fact that, you know, other people were culpable as well.
It's just demonstrating that you understand your part and you apologize for your portion of it. Right. Yeah.
Jeff Corrigan: And I think we've said this on the show before, but I think it's that same principle of taking ownership or responsibility for everything in your life, regardless of whether it was your fault.
, it doesn't matter if you were the one who actually performed the action, but if you were involved in any way, like you can apologize, take ownership for whatever part you did play in that action. It's like take responsibility. And then you have the power to impact it in a positive way.
And not just that. Because you can't always control the outcome. People may not forgive you. People may still sue you. People may still, you know what I mean? The ramifications may still be there, but that shouldn't take our responsibility for apologizing.
Sheldon Mills: brings up an interesting point. So we're pulling this in large part from a book called sorry, sorry, sorry, the case for good apologies. And it's really good. And I was listening to it yesterday and I was listening to the section about medical malpractice. And it, it's like the third. Largest reason for deaths in the U.
S. or something, anyway, talking about malpractice suits and things like that, and how far too often, like we don't get real apologies. And basically going into this evidence that apologizing like a real apology does not lead to more legal lawsuits and things like that. And actually done right, done well, helps prevent those.
Jeff Corrigan: well, because I think your PR guy, they're thinking like, Oh, we got to save some face here. We cannot
Sheldon Mills: admit
Jeff Corrigan: culpability. Right. The best way to save face is to admit when you're wrong and to claim and be responsible for the mistakes, ? And our legal world and our PR world would say the opposite.
In so many ways, everyone knows that's not true. If you have a child, we would rather them tell us the full truth so we can get at the heart. What do they say? All progress starts by telling the truth. I think that's true here as well. It's like the moment you can totally claim and be responsible for what you've done wrong is the moment you can move forward.
Sheldon Mills: And that's why when celebrities or, you know, politics or stuff, when there's this, this non apology, It actually makes it worse. It makes people even, like, more resentful and vindictive.
Jeff Corrigan: Yeah, I don't even think about President Clinton. It's like, back in the day, right, not to, like, drum up old politics. Dating yourself,
Sheldon Mills: Jeff.
Jeff Corrigan: But essentially, yeah, everybody's like, who's Clinton, huh? So, but yeah, I mean, that was you know, he lied to everybody and then he had an insincere apology. It doesn't build any rapport, trust. Yeah. Okay. We, we get that part. Now, moving on to the next section here, this can be three and a half or four, really, depending on how you look at it, is , explain why it happened, but only if necessary.
I think that caveat must be here because sometimes like Sheldon was saying earlier, what happens? It could
Sheldon Mills: quickly become an excuse. Sometimes context is necessary and helpful in an apology. But this easily and quickly can become an excuse. So you have to be really careful.
Jeff Corrigan: Yes, you do. So let's think of some examples. I think you had some funny ones in your newsletter, right? A time when you can explain.
Sheldon Mills: so when teaching children, . I think kids have this oversized sense of justice. You know what I mean? Like, yeah, it's very common for kids to, I've seen
Jeff Corrigan: this to my kids and adults.
Sheldon Mills: I did, but I didn't mean to, right. I, and it's like, it's almost like there's two grievances. It's like the, what you did and then, but I didn't mean to, you know what I mean? It's like, you could acknowledge, help them acknowledge like, yes, I'm grateful that you weren't trying to hurt your brother or sister, but it still happened. And even though you didn't mean to, we need to apologize for the thing that happened.
Jeff Corrigan: Yeah. We live in a society where as a general population, I think most people intend good most of the time, right? Maybe I'm giving people a lot of credit, but I like to believe that people have good intentions.
And so by far and away, most of the things that happen in our lives are unintended or accidental. And so I would say that most of our apologies are going to be. Even though we didn't mean to. So, or I shouldn't say most, but maybe a high percentage are going to be because we didn't mean to. So apologizing, even when you didn't mean to is, yeah, hopefully, right.
We're not just walking around in ill intentions, but, I didn't mean to is an excuse, ? And we understand that almost inherently, but we often still do it. We have this over size sense of justice, like Sheldon said earlier that, Hey, yeah, but I didn't even mean to do that. So why should I have to pay?
Why should I do that? I
Sheldon Mills: like this definition of. I'm pulling this from sorry, watch. com again. The author's from sorry, sorry, sorry. A crucial element of a good apology is understanding the difference between explanation and excuse. Many of us mess this up and explanation offers context that's helpful to the person receiving the apology and excuse offers context that's designed to make the person who's apologizing look.
Jeff Corrigan: Yes. Okay. That's a great example. So you had a great example in your newsletter, Sheldon. It's right here. If I was late to pick you up because I was the key witness to the bus catching fire in front of me. That's an explanation, ? It's like, okay, Hey, I was late.
I'm really sorry. I had to be a witness. Like the cops said I needed to stay and do this. Right. That's a legitimate excuse. That doesn't mean you don't have to say you're sorry. You still can say you're sorry, right? But , here's the other option. If I was late because I was caught up in the game.
Now that's an excuse, right? Or if I was late because I didn't leave on time. Now you're talking excuses and it's trying to make yourself look better or feel better and it
Sheldon Mills: is really easy to fall into this trap. You have to guard real closely not to do that.
Jeff Corrigan: So let's move on to four,
Sheldon Mills: Four Explain what you do to keep it from happening again. This is like the miracle of everything, right? If you can explain, okay, I think I put a couple of examples in there. I promised, I've set an alarm on my phone so that next time I don't forget, it doesn't happen, right? I guess that's a simple one.
But explaining what you'll do to try and keep the offense from happening again. This does wonders.
Jeff Corrigan: Yeah, it really does. , and then follow through is key on this one. And I know that, as humans, we tend to make the same mistakes over and over and over again. So there might be a lot of apologizing for one thing.
And I, think we need to give not only ourselves grace, but others grace when they truly are trying to improve an area. But maybe falling into the same gap over and over and I know we all do it to some extent in some area of our life or another but if there are areas where there's a consistent pattern of offense or it becomes more like symptomatic and you're having to apologize all the time, you may need to look deeper.
Right? There might be some hard work involved here. Yeah. That's between you and God, , or you and a professional of some kind, right? Then in those cases it might take some sincere and deep work on your part. , to change the way that you're approaching life or at least these circumstances.
So that one's one of the harder ones, but I think it's something that we all got to consider in our own lives is like, where am I repeatedly doing the same thing and how can I get help or where, how can I make a change , that's a lasting change?
Sheldon Mills: I think in this situation, it's like we all have, I'll call them weaknesses, right?
If we're all honest, there's like these certain aspects of our personality character, whatever you want to call it, that we've been working on for a while, decades, whatever, right? But they seem to crop up every now and then. I think if you can show that you're, giving sincere effort to.
To improve upon that, like, yeah, so this is something we don't go into, I didn't go into a lot of detail, but I did touch upon in my newsletter. I almost want to just read it. Let me read it real quick. Go ahead. Often the things we need to apologize for are behaviors we repeatedly struggle with. Example is, I'm sorry, I yelled at you again, right?
Dot, dot, dot. This takes real humility and
Jeff Corrigan: understanding of the problem. A to home, Sheldon. I just can't go
Sheldon Mills: ahead. Let's see in order to start to address how you'll keep it from happening again. I suggest that in systemic struggles you do some real soul searching on things you can do to try and learn overcome these challenges.
One thing that has helped me is to spend time really thinking about journaling, researching, reading books, learning, asking mentors, asking God to help me see more clearly how these impacts other people. And what the true consequences of these actions are more than a few of us have awakened to the realization that our anger attitude has caused more impact than we realized.
This can be a powerful motivation for change. I love it. Fifth. What's
Jeff Corrigan: fifth? Fifth offer to make up for what you did. Fix it. Fix it. Right? Do whatever you can. Now, some cases, you might not be able to take away the pain, or the hurt, or the whatever you caused.
Sheldon Mills: can't take back the thing you said, you know what I mean? Like, frankly, a lot of this stuff, you probably can't fix it. And actually, you know, it's like, if I broke a window, I can pay for the window. If I broke a toy. But I think most things we apologize for, you can't go back and... Fix it.
Jeff Corrigan: Yeah, so how, how can they fix it?
Sheldon Mills: well, we need to do our best to make reparations, ? To repair the feelings and the trust, right? There are things like a sincere apologies to pit taking ownership. I mean, perhaps that is how you make reparations. And a lot of things is like you take ownership for how you made them feel.
Right. And for the steps,
if you really did that, right, that is a huge step to fixing it. Yeah,
Jeff Corrigan: , I think you're absolutely right. Really, it's pretty simple is do whatever you can to repair the situation and, and make up for the gap there and whatever that gap may be. Number six. Listen, listen and learn, right?
Let them tell you What it is they felt how they you know what happened in their eyes Even if that differs from what you saw because in many instances, our perspectives are not so much based in reality, but in who we are how we see the world. This goes back to not judging the other person's Version of it and not interrupting and not protesting.
True responsibility is owning it. And owning whatever feelings they're feeling about it as well. And again,
Sheldon Mills: relationships again, it's never 100% and zero. Do you know what I mean? Like often it's collusive. It's not 100% your fault, right? This is not the time to get into that... There probably is a time for that, ?
But in a sincere apology, it's to listen and learn and then come back to again at another time. Like what's happening, the dynamics and kind of like why and try and figure that out. But in a sincere apology, it's the ownership of what you did and listening and learning. This has near miraculous, like super heroic powers to heal people and relationships and situations.
Jeff Corrigan: Absolutely. , let's review real quick because I think , that's the most important part is that you guys take away from this. First of all, we're going to have a quick reference guide that you can download from our website in the show notes linked in the show notes for free.
Kind of a
Sheldon Mills: bulleted list of this, but then also a little card you can cut out, put on your mirror, keeping your wallet, something that's like just the bullet points. So when it really comes down to it, you can remember what you need to do.
Jeff Corrigan: Yeah, because I mean, we've talked on a lot about these things, but having that quick reference to remind you in the moment you're going to apologize is really helpful.
And that's what we want to give to you for this and for as many principles and ideas as we have in the future as possible. Let's wrap this thing up. Anything else you want to say there?
Sheldon Mills: Yeah. Clearly not every apology needs every step, but bare minimum, you always have to apologize, take ownership.
I'm sorry. I apologize for and say sorry for what you did. Right? That's like the bare minimum.
Jeff Corrigan: Yes. Number one, number two, if you can throw a number three in there as often as possible, that's going to be ideal. Those first three, the others. I mean, if it's a more in depth apology, there, there are different apologies that you're going to, you know.
It's a big offense,
Sheldon Mills: definitely, but for small things,
Jeff Corrigan: yeah. Reparations, mending fences, closure and things like that with people, trying to find ways , to move forward and build trust again. , with that, we want to thank you. So much for listening.
If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with a friend. And like we said, go join our magic Monday newsletter, subscribe, and go download this free PDF so that you can have this toolkit with you wherever you go, whenever you need it. As a quick reference guide to know what are the steps to apologize again, because I want to do this the right way because it can be a
Sheldon Mills: superpower.
It can be a superpower. Yeah, I like that.
Sheldon Mills: The anatomy of a good apology. Should we, should we just run down
Jeff Corrigan: that one more time? Yep.
Sheldon Mills: One, say you're sorry. Two, for what you did. Three, , show that you understand why it was wrong or bad and how it impacted them.
Three and a half, explain what happened if necessary, but don't turn that into an excuse. Number four, explain what you do to keep it from happening again, so it's not repeated. Number five, fix it as best as you can. And six, just listen and learn.
Now you know how to give a world class apology. Love it.
Jeff Corrigan: Time to start living your best life.