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Paula Fargo

The Vanishing Art of the Apology

Sometimes a simple “I’m sorry” goes a long way.



“What did you do?”

ANY OTHER DOG owners out there? Just hearing four innocuous-sounding words — “What did you do?” — sends my dogs into a tail-dropping, ear-drooping, cowering position of wretched submission and shame.

Don’t you wish you could say that to some coworkers, vendors, customers, advisors, friends, family or strangers who ram into the back of your car for no good reason, periodically and get the same reaction?

Why is it so hard for some people to admit they’ve made a mistake?

Is it fear of looking foolish? Worry about a possible lawsuit? Pigheaded obstinance and humongous ego that will not allow any sign of capitulation or gratitude? Maybe it will cost some money to admit an error? Perhaps the person is just a jerk?

Please, I beg, don’t let that stop you from apologizing if you were wrong, or, at the very least, acknowledging there might have been a problem. Don’t be that guy who can’t admit he isn’t perfect, don’t be that girl who feels she is above it all. Don’t be that ungrateful jerk who takes and takes from generous peers and never says the problem lies with them.

How badly does it feel to be ill-treated by someone you work with, be they vendor, coworker or client? How sad or angry does it make you when an obvious situation arises and you know you are owed an apology and it’s not forthcoming? And how much of a difference does it make to hear these beautiful and welcome words?


“I’m sorry.”
“That was my fault.”
“I overreacted.”
“I was wrong.”
“I feel like I’ve hurt you, but that was not my intention.”
“I can see why you might feel like that, and I apologize.”

Some companies spend tens of thousands of dollars or more training their employees to properly handle customer complaints. Often, a simple and honest apology will do what a full page scripted “mea-culpa, non-apology” will not do, assuage the feelings that somehow got hurt. You can always spot a “nonpology” by the inclusion of the word “if” in the middle of the apology: “We apologize if anyone was offended…” News flash! You wouldn’t be apologizing unless someone was offended.

So, are you someone who should apologize to a client, coworker, vendor, friend, family member or person you just rear-ended?
Yeah, I thought so.

Do it yourself, model the behavior for your employees, coworkers, vendors, family and others you might have wronged by not apologizing or failing to show gratitude.

Our signshops are a beehive of activity all day, every day. Let’s be thoughtful of one another and reap the rewards of happier clients, satisfied employees and a more peaceful and civilized workplace.




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