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Robert Stevenson’s Thoughts on the Pursuit of Excellence

The Power of an APOLOGY

September 22, 2018

by Robert Stevenson

It took me years to learn: Sometimes the first to apologize wins. Conflict resolved. Tension removed. You feel better. Life goes on. The definition of an APOLOGY is: an admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret and should not reference mitigating or extenuating circumstances. If you reference those mitigating or extenuating circumstances, you just flipped from an APOLOGY to giving an EXCUSE. And, as Benjamin Franklin said: “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”

An apology doesn’t have the word “BUT” in it.

  • “I’m sorry you feel that way, but __________”
  • “I’m sorry for what I did, but _________”
  • “I’m sorry my words hurt you, but _________”

No matter the situation, the word “BUT” negates the apology. What it actually says is: deep down, I believe that I am correct and not in the wrong. The word BUT negates or cancels everything that goes before it. It is generally accepted as a signal that the really important part of the sentence is coming up. Smart people recognize that this apology means nothing, and that the person who said it isn’t interested in apologizing, at all.

A sincere apology requires three things:

  1. I’m sorry
  2. It was my fault
  3. What can I do to make it right?

A lot of people will do the first two steps, but not number three. If that is the case, the apology was really a waste of time. An apology without a changed behavior is worthless. If your actions don’t change, your apology is meaningless. When you’ve done something wrong, ADMIT IT. Be sorry. No one has ever choked to death for swallowing their PRIDE and apologizing.

At times, the problem with apologizing has more to do with PRIDE than anything else. Arguments drag out because one person is too stubborn to forgive and the other is too proud to apologize. I heard it once said, “Pride will cost you everything and leave you with nothing.” I think it’s best for all of us to look at apologizing the following way:

The first to apologize is the bravest.
The first to forgive is the strongest.
The first to forget is the happiest.

We also need to understand that apologizing doesn’t necessarily mean you’re admitting you were wrong. It can mean you value your relationship with that person, more than your ego. Be the strong one. In many cases, you will never receive an apology. Accept that as their problem, their weakness … not yours. Forgive someone who isn’t sorry and, in your mind, accept the apology you will never receive. Be the bigger person.

Remember, sometimes the first to apologize wins. Conflict resolved. Tension removed. You feel better. Those are all good things for you.

"Your only true security in life
is your ability to perform."

About the Author

Robert Stevenson is an expert at building a high-performance business culture, improving efficiency, and accelerating growth. He is one of the most widely sought-after speakers in the world today, as well as a best-selling author. He has owned five companies, sold internationally in over 20 countries. Robert has spoken to over 2,500 companies throughout the world and his research in the area of corporate and entrepreneurial success is extensive. Over 2 million people have benefitted from his powerful, practical, and thought-provoking programs. He is a true master at blending facts, inspiration, conviction, and humor into all his programs.

Companies like FedEx, Prudential, Lockheed Martin, Anheuser-Busch, Chevron, American Express, and Berkshire Hathaway continue to rely on him for a fresh, unique perspective on businesses’ most crucial issues. To learn more about Robert and what he can do for your team visit his website at

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