David Miliband might do better in the forthcoming elections for Labour Leader if he were to say one word – sorry. At the moment, however, he is in “attack mode” calling the Liberal Democrats hypocrites and claiming the new Government has broken its promises over the economy. But new research suggests that Mr Miliband would fare much better if he just said “sorry”. It is a fact that the UK debt is the greatest it has ever been in recorded economic history. It is a fact that this debt arose whilst Mr Miliband and his Labour Party colleagues were in charge of the economy. But rather than say “sorry” he just wants to argue about what the other parties are doing.
A new study from the University of Illinois shows how important an apology is to us. Mr Miliband, like so many businesses advised by their insurance company lawyers, does not want to say “sorry” because that is tantamount to an admission of liability. But the new research shows that even if this is the case, it REDUCES the damages paid out and leads to a speedier and more amicable settlement. We just want justice it seems and part of that is people saying sorry when we feel they need to apologise.
Online it’s as though the lawyers have been in charge. Some website makes a mess up and what do they do? Well, the claim it was their server’s fault, or they blame their ISP for lack of email delivery, or they say some third party was responsible for the error. They explain what went wrong during some transaction, or when they fail to respond to emails on time, but do they ever say sorry? Pah..! Do they heck.
Are you automatically guilty?
We appear to have had it drummed into us by the legal profession that we must not say sorry, because that will mean we are automatically guilty and that, in turn, will increase our costs and liabilities to the offended party. Ever bumped into the car in front? You probably get out, a little shocked, but all you can hear inside your head is “don’t say sorry, don’t say sorry”. Yet, that’s all you want to do…! Our natural instincts have been overtaken by the legal profession. And it is the same online, it seems.
This new research shows that the lawyers – not for the first time – are simply plain wrong. Saying sorry helps. Saying sorry reduces compensation claims. And this new study shows that admitting it was your fault and saying sorry produces BETTER results all round that merely expressing sympathy. Even if it is not your fault, apologising makes it better for you and for the people who you have offended.
We do it all the time. Someone walks INTO YOU in a shop doorway and YOU say “sorry”…! It was their lack of attention, their rudeness, their self-centred focus – and YOU are the one who says sorry. What happens? They go, “Oh, yes, never mind, thanks, sorry, my fault” and you smile and move one. Now, repeat the same incident. They bump into you and you say “Can’t you look where you are going?” What happens next? They say something like “Huh, it’s you who should look where you are going” and before you know it, you both have negative attitudes, feel bad and sometimes an argument breaks out. Saying sorry, even when it is not your fault, defuses situations. The lawyers are just plain wrong; don’t listen to them…!
So, when your website fails, when your email system breaks down or when your Twitter feed gets hijacked and “you” are sending out links to porn sites, just avoid explaining it, avoid blaming others, simply say sorry to everyone affected.
This simple word will boost your online reputation, it will reduce the negative feelings about you and it will make you feel better about the situation anyway.
So, Mr Miliband…we’re waiting…!
Oh…and while we wait….if you are a lawyer and you didn’t like what I said about you and your profession, well, sorry. There, I’ve said it; I hope we all feel better now.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+