Apologize like a Pro

Every single person alive has said or done something that requires an apology. Surprisingly, most of us really suck at doing this well. If you want to repair your relationships, nurture trust or take responsibility for your actions – here are some tips to apologize like a pro.

Know what you are apologizing for

Before you go ahead and accept all responsibility for everything that has gone wrong – think about the part you played in it. What, specifically, do you wish you had done differently? If you are clear about what you did your message will be clear and your apology won’t be misunderstood. This step should take the most time. Think about it. Then think about it again.

Timing is everything

When you throw your apology at someone then scamper away – it doesn’t count. Make sure they are ready and willing to talk to you. Make sure their attention isn’t on something else. Ask whether they have time to talk. By asking whether it is a good time to talk – you give them a choice. This makes them feel more ‘in control’ and is likely to make them view your apology more favorably.

Don’t defend or justify your behaviour

The quickest way to destroy an apology is to defend the thing that you are sorry about. Don’t allow excuses for your behaviour to enter your head. Don’t justify the behaviour you are apologizing for. As soon as ‘but’ comes out your mouth – you’ve lost. Keep your message short and specific. Once you’ve said your piece, listen to what they say. Listen to understand, not respond.

Define a solution

You have to apologize because you said or did something you could’ve done better. How could you clearly define the measures you will take to make sure it doesn’t happen again? This is a great trust builder – but you better follow through!

Forgiveness isn’t a ‘given’

You’ve said your bit – and the person is still angry. What then? Don’t expect forgiveness straight away. Sometimes time helps and sometimes it doesn’t. Your apology shouldn’t be dependent on trying to get someone to forgive you – it should be about ‘owning up’ to yourself, and others, about your behaviour.

You are now armed with the framework to apologize like you mean it – and make it count.

Good luck!

The Cinderella Complex

Bad working conditions. Sleep deprivation. Hunger. Loneliness. Hopelessness. Resignation. Cinderella is the perfect victim. If her fairy godmother didn’t pitch up in time for that ball what do you think would have happened to her? My guess is she would end up marrying the stable boy, have a couple of kids and slave away for her stepsisters till she died. The end.

But that doesn’t make a good fairytale. So we need to introduce the fairy godmother. The magical saviour who acknowledges Cinderella’s worth and rewards her for it. In the real world… who would that be? Your partner? Your boss? Friends? Family? Who knows your worth and has the ability to do something about it? What would Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Elon Musk or Marissa Mayer say? I think if you asked them they would likely have a laughing fit and then get security to escort you from the building. Trust our ‘happily ever after’ to someone else? Really?

But we do it all the time. We play it safe, avoid risk and convince ourselves that working for ugly stepsisters is just fine. This wouldn’t be a problem – if we didn’t have a vision of something different. A dream of something amazing. An idea that there is actually more for us out there.

As far as fairytales go, I would prefer to be Hansel and Gretel. They are abandoned in the woods. Happen on a cottage made of gingerbread and candy (already my dream-come-true) and get captured by the witch who wants to eat them. Do they cry? Do they shout about how unfair it all is? Do they give up and become the witches dinner? NO… they strategize, they plan… and then they toss that witch in her own oven. These are hardy little kids! These are fighters, who don’t accept the status-quo. These are individuals who make their own ‘happily ever after’… take no prisoners and fight to win.

If you want your life to be amazing, if you want to achieve your potential and make a difference… don’t wait for external influence. You have to fight for it. You have to bleed for it. You have to take that leap of faith and DO SOMETHING about it. It’s not going to be easy. No-one can do it for you. It will never just be given to you.

FIGHT!

Make New Years Resolutions Stick

You’ve committed to losing weight. To getting a promotion. To changing jobs. To stop smoking. To stop procrastinating. To travel. These are just some of the many New Year Resolutions that we embrace in the spirit of new beginnings.

They are all great, positive things. They would positively impact us. So why do we lose traction after deciding to accomplish them (usually around March – and sometimes before)?

In truth, there are many reasons that contribute to losing the dedication to our goals. Life is busy – and it is always easier to do things the way we are comfortable with… because we can do it without thinking. Changing is something we have to think about, actively achieve and the process is awkward and uncomfortable. If we really want to commit – the pain of ‘not changing’ has to be so powerful that we just won’t stand for it anymore.

If you think about WHY we make resolutions, the purpose, what we would like to achieve – it is usually because we want to be happy, and believe that our resolutions will MAKE us happy. The problem with this is that we ‘delay’ potential happiness until we have reached our goals…. no wonder they don’t stick!

So how can we put these simple truths to good use?

Think of your resolutions. Ask yourself what your resolution will really accomplish if you achieve it? Keep digging until you are clear what lies underneath. Once you understand your own motivation – it is much easier to work toward achieving it. It also becomes easier to implement small wins along the way that will keep you motivated.

Our underlying beliefs definitely influence how we go about reaching our goals. Sometimes, it is more powerful to challenge beliefs than to achieve a goal. Beliefs colour our experience of life. If you would like to achieve more happiness, success and wealth it makes sense to challenge the way you look at yourself and the world.

So, investigate your goals and keep digging until you discover what you really want…. then make it happen!

Change: You want me to do what??!

If you could ask a caterpillar what it wants to do with its life, I imagine it would sound something like, “have more food” or “move to a place with no birds”. Nothing in its existence could possibly prepare it for the change that is to come. I imagine that if you could tell a caterpillar what was going to happen, it could either be a completely useless worm…. just waiting for its wings…. OR the incidence of caterpillar suicide rates might climb rapidly.

While most change in the human world doesn’t seem as dramatic as the caterpillars spectacular transformation, change is always, ALWAYS, marked by a period of transition. The old way and new way battle it out. The time frame of this transition depends on the magnitude of the change and can range from a day to a lifetime. Frustration, anger, fear, grief and helplessness are common ‘symptoms’ when learning to do something differently – because we aren’t sure ‘how’ anymore.

Think of these 3 types of change. Change that we initiate ourselves (like learning a new skill), change that is forced on us (like a break up) or change that is called for by our environment (like switching a software system at the office). While all these ‘types’ of change still produce discomfort (transition), which of them feel better to you? I’m guessing the one where you have the power to choose to do it or not. So, if choice makes a difference to how you experience change… how can you use this for the types of change that don’t ‘give’ you a choice?

Remember being dumped? Your partner probably didn’t ask you if it was OK for him/her to dump you… they just went right ahead and ripped your heart out. The change process from being in a relationship, to being single is a highly emotional one (that Bridget Jones and every single romcom can attest to). Maybe the future DOES hold a better partner, maybe the future IS better without your ex in it… and maybe it really is for the best… but we can’t see it that way in the beginning. It would be like asking that caterpillar to immediately sprout wings and fly off into the sunset. Impossible!

All you can really do is put your chin up and make it through a day at a time. Remind yourself that it is a nasty process and give yourself time to adapt… until the change becomes more normal. How we deal with transition IS a choice. You can choose to cry and withdraw (which is fine) – or you can choose to put on a brave face (which is also fine)… choose the best way for YOU.

Are you carrying an elephant?

Is this person capable of creative thinking, problem solving, strategic intervention, planning? I’d bet that the only thing on his mind, other than the tusks, is ‘put one foot in front of the other’. Imagine the effort of will, the crushing weight, the laboured breathing, the mild panic when the load shifts.

We all know not to carry elephants. The idea is preposterous. But we DO carry guilt, fear, loneliness, worry, shame, frustration and disappointment. Our emotional baggage is just as heavy and has a similar effect on our ability to think clearly, make good choices and see solutions.

If it is so ridiculous to carry an elephant, why do we carry emotional elephants? Perhaps we don’t know better, perhaps we don’t know how to put the load down without getting crushed and maybe, just maybe, we are completely oblivious to the fact that we are carrying something around that is weighing us down!

Ask yourself these questions:-

  • Do I connect easily with people?
  • Do I experience ‘happiness’ regularly, laugh often and smile daily?
  • Do I feel that things are ‘under control’?
  • Do I try new things, enjoy learning and challenging myself?

If you answered ‘YES’ to all of these questions – congratulations!! You are probably not carrying an elephant. Can you spot someone close to you that might not be as fortunate?

If you answered ‘NO’ to some or all of these questions, it is likely that you are carrying an elephant. Don’t be hard on yourself (no need to add more weight!), it is more common than you would believe! The good news is that you don’t have to keep carrying it. Just imagine what it will be like to put down that 5 ton load. Explore your emotional elephant… and let it go.

Emotional elephants are part of what makes us human but we really don’t need to carry them around.

Leadership and the Lord Of The Rings

My secret is out. I am a Lord of the Rings junkie.

The overcoming of seemingly insurmountable odds, the breathtaking scenery and the knowledge that nothing will ever be the same again – no matter what happens.

While watching it…. let’s say for the second time….. I came to a realization. Frodo Baggins annoyed the living daylights out of me. My hero was Sam. Sam the dull. Sam the coward who can’t find the courage to talk to the girl of his dreams but faces true terror with a tiny sword to protect his hero. Without Sam I don’t think I could face Frodo’s ‘I wish this had never happened to me’ inner turmoil.

So what about life? Self-help sections are full of books on how to be the best, on how to be a great leader and on how to be better, stronger, faster. It is easy to lose sight of one single truth. We can’t all be Frodo. So when you figure out that you are not going to be the leading character what then? What does it take to be a first rate number two?

Followers, even more so than leaders, have to believe in what they are doing. Perhaps the motivations behind their belief differ from the leader – in the end this is irrelevant. The first rate follower provides the support, dots the I’s and crosses the t’s… cooks the food, carries the heaviest pack and protects the hero – even from himself.

If you are going to be a follower – be the best follower. The leaders have to get the job done but they cannot do it alone. It takes combined effort to face challenges, overcome obstacles and pioneer change. The world is full of average people doing extraordinary things. You never hear Sam complaining that Frodo didn’t appreciate his contribution or argue that his load was just as great. Sam believes so firmly in what he is doing that he does it without question or complaint. What a great gift to any hero.

Greatness can be achieved at any level. In every role.