No-one likes it. We prefer to avoid all situations where apologies are required. It either means we were wronged, or we wronged someone. Most of all, we hope to never have to give one.
It forces us to acknowledge a mistake or an error. We have to admit we came up short. It’s not a great feeling. Mostly because we are confronted with something we spend our whole lives trying to escape, failure.
Coming to grips with this reality usually takes one of two forms.
This is when we either offer an apology to shut you up or to set the record straight. It’s a social convention rather than a heartfelt sorrow. We go through the motions to check of the customer complaints protocol or save face on Twitter. It’s not honest, and it’s pretty clear we either don’t agree (but the customer is always right so we have no choice) or we don’t care enough to take this failure seriously.
This is not just ‘Listen, Engage, Acknowledge, Repeat.’ It’s not just about empathy and understanding. This is about caring enough to fix the problem. The best example of this is from the airline industry. Whenever something goes horribly wrong, they don’t just identify the cause and apologise. They actively seek ways to prevent it in the future. They create new protocols, processes and fail-safes to prevent this, and any other near misses discovered in the proceedings from ever happening again.
Real apologies are easy to spot.
It is accompanied by sincere efforts to change behaviour and improve the future.