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What's in an Apology

by Tabitha Garvin, MCUN

Board members don’t often think about needing to apologize; but let’s face it, we all make mistakes in our communications. At a board meeting, those communication goofs usually happen between two people but always in front of a room full of folks.

I’m sure you can all think of a time when a communication problem occurred in a board meeting. The room goes silent, as each person holds their breath waiting to see what will happen next. Some avoid eye contact, not wanting to be drawn into the conflict. At times like this, it is vital for the board chair to competently control the situation immediately. However, the person who makes (made?) the conversation gaffe needs to be the one to publically apologize to repair the situation.

Apologies are an interesting communication skill. Communications expert Gary Chapman offers insights into apologies. Consider this: A person says, “I’m sorry.” And another person sarcastically says, “Yeah. Right. You don’t mean it.” Apology offered and rejected. Why does this happen? It’s simple communications. You have to apologize in a way that will be recognized and received.

  1. Expressing Regret: “I am sorry.”
  2. Accepting Responsibility: “I was wrong.”
  3. Making Restitution: “What can I do to make it right.”
  4. Genuinely Repenting: “I’ll try not to do that again.”
  5. Requesting Forgiveness: “Will you please forgive me?

Be sure to take the Apology Profile and learn how you typically give apologies and want to receive them.

Not all apologies are verbal. You might be getting an apology and not even realize it. My Dad is much better at non-verbal apologies, while I am more of a genuinely repenting apologizer.

Apologizing is a skill. Learning to use this skill wisely will make you a more effective communicator on your board. If you are the board chair, I encourage you to take the lead and have a conversation with your other board members about handling communication problems and offering apologies when they’re needed.

Tabitha Garvin is the VP-Fee Based Services for the Montana Credit Union Network. She would welcome any questions or comments on this material. You can email Tabitha or call her at 800-745-5546, ext. 132.

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