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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How to Apologize with Aplomb



Breaking bread together is a good way to conclude an apology.
The recipie from this “no knead” bread came from our
close friends Ron and Tricia Bergman.  You can follow
their international travel adventures on their insightful and
well-written blog, by clicking here.

In case you ever hit our boat (click here to read about that) or commit some equally lame offense to me or another boater, consider following these 10 scripted steps to issue an appropriate apology.  In a nutshell, it’s about taking ownership for your role, and making appropriate amends.








  1. Are you okay?
  2. Is your boat okay?
  3. I really blew it.  I shouldn’t have… (admit what you did wrong).
  4. I can understand if you’re upset.
  5. I’m really sorry.
  6. In the future I will… (explain what you will do to avoid this in the future).
  7. Can I fix or pay to repair or replace what I broke?  And, or, if no harm was done, a goodwill token – offer something small and thoughtful, like a hot cup of coffee on a cold day, or cold beer on a hot one.  Note:  if there’s no physical damage, this step is not necessary, but for those willing to go the extra mile, it is genuinely appreciated, even when it’s not accepted by the injured party.
  8. Again, I’m really sorry.
  9. Thank you for your understanding and forgiveness.
  10. I’ll be much more careful in the future and will (repeat what you will do to avoid this in the future).


Good friends Nancy and Larry of Jacari Maru.
Our initial contact came about because Iwas in
 a boat Larry believed anchored too close
 to his.  We were several boat lengths away, but
within swing range (For non-boaties, that’s
if the total rope length from each boat’s anchor
stretched out in opposing directions, a collision
could happen.  Usually most boats swing in
parallel, not opposition, but not always.  Also,
sometimes anchors dislodge, or “drag,”
which can also lead to a collision).  We did not
collide, but “broke bread” together.
Executed correctly, it’s possible to not only right the wrong, but spread good cheer and even become the start of a friendship.  Trust me, it’s happened, to me, and among my former mediation clients.  More often than not, it’s not money that’s the issue*, but understanding, empathy and a positive path forward.

None of us are perfect.  Mistakes are inevitable. When we learn from our mistakes, and move on with grace, we can make the world a better place.

*If money is truly the issue, while behaving with dignity will not likely change the outcome, it is still worthwhile simply for your own self-respect.  Click here for a heartening example of change in the medical profession.