Actually, you could possibly talk your way out a few times, particularly if you can spin a good story and vary the details and the victims enough.
But after a while, like the boy who cried wolf, there is a definite limit to the ability of words, no matter how sweetly spun, to substitute for the reality of concrete action.
At some point you must “do” sorry, not just “say” sorry.
You must demonstrate behavior, consistently and repeatedly, that indicates true remorse, not mere lip service. You must accept that your actions have consequences and at times those consequences must be atoned for. To atone is to make reparation for a mistake. Reparation is compensation for a wrong, the restoration of something to good condition.
I have observed “apologies” followed immediately by explanations of why it was not the person’s fault, or how the other party should have anticipated or prevented the incident in question, or even by launching into a litany of supposedly counter-balancing grievances.
These are not apologies, not even pseudo-apologies. A true expression of remorse coming from the heart stands alone. Sincere contriteness is undercut when you indulge in simultaneous evasions of responsibility or denials of accountability, contemporaneous or otherwise.
I have found, both in business and in personal dealings, that a good reputation is money in the bank. Banks and business partners have been willing to go the extra mile because we deliver on our promises and and stand behind our handshake.
If credibility and trustworthiness are your goal, if you aspire to good standing and stellar stature, then remember: You cannot talk your way out of what you have behaved yourself into. The only way to truly restore faith and trust is by consistent and constant dependable behavior.
This is a classic from the NSC Blog archive, originally posted May 8, 2008.