Sep 25, 2014

Eating Crow: The Art of the Apology

No one likes to be criticized. It’s hard to hear you have done something wrong, or you have inadvertently offended someone. But it happens.

This week I faced a direct criticism. My article, Beware of Management Consultants Bearing Goals, made a broad generalization of management consultants. And I got called out for it, “What about marketing specialists and consultants promising silver bullets? Sorry Jeremy, but I think this post is in poor taste.”

When I first read the email criticizing the article I got defensive. I wanted to argue my point further. I wanted to explain where I was coming from. I wanted to prove I wasn’t wrong.

But that would have been the wrong approach. All I could do was apologize and acknowledge my mistake.

Don’t get defensive when you have offended

It may hurt to hear you’ve made a mistake, but don’t get defensive.

Let me illustrate this with another example. Last week I visited a local coffee shop in a high-end shopping area. I went in with high expectations, but the experience was terrible.

That evening I wrote a scathing review and criticized the establishment.

The owner responded to me, “Jeremy, thank you for your candid commentary. I disagree with everything you said except for the mice you saw.”

By opening with a defensive statement it made me defensive. I may have been inclined to give them a second chance if I was offered an authentic apology, but the owner’s need to defend his position strengthened my disappointment with the establishment.

Eat your crow

When you screw up, eat crow.

Suck back your pride. Burry any defensive reactions. Apologize. Simply, graciously apologize. Acknowledge the mistake, and learn from it.

Think about it this way. For someone to take the time to criticize you is a gift. They are sharing an opinion so you can get better. Take the criticism and use it — examine your behaviors and find ways to improve your services.

In my case, my article made a broad, sweeping generalization. Not all management consultants are bad. To the contrary, most are excellent and they truly care about the services they deliver.

I made a mistake. I am sorry to those I offended. I have taken the feedback to heart.

How do you respond when your services are criticized?

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