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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Kathy Mangold: The perfect recipe for an apology


By Kathy Mangold
During my years as a food writer, I gained a real appreciation for a well-written recipe.

I've got a whole binder full of favorite recipes, and I treasure them because they are consistently delicious and foolproof.

Recipes provide a framework for success. And within the realm of communications, consider Verbal Defense & Influence strategies as templates that can be served up over and over again.

Take, for example, an emotional minefield like an apology. When someone is mad at you, disappointed or unhappy, you are a juncture where instructions would be handy. Because your response will calm down a situation -- or will lead you into a blazing fire.

Here are some pointers to walk you through the perfect apology:

1. Don't get emotional: Fight against the impulse to let your defensive mechanisms kick in. Your ego will want to surface and your ears will want to shut down. You might feel alternately like digging in, or running and hiding. Calm yourself down instead.

2. Be ready: Addressing conflict is a life skill to be cultivated and practiced. And now it's Showtime, so be confident -- because you have a plan.

3. Deflect: A Word Block is a phrase you should have at the ready -- "I can see that you're angry. I apologize if I've upset you."

4. Go Beyond Listening: Beyond Listening means that you are attuned to their body language, tone and their words Pay close attention, particularly to the meaning behind the words.

5. Paraphrase: They need to clarify, and you need to understand. Ask questions like, "Do you really mean that I am ...?" Once they hear their words back at them, they'll probably stop any theatrics, drama and overstatements to make sure you have the story straight.

6. Summarize: You have an idea of the problem. Summarize the issue and now you can start a dialog.

It might mean explaining your point of view, or it might involve another apology. But you've set a constructive framework for moving forward.

Being confronted with anger or disappointment provokes powerful emotions. But you have a choice: Snap back or have a strategy.

-- Mangold is an award-winning newspaper reporter, magazine editor and freelance writer with degrees in journalism and German from Marquette University. She is a manager at the Vistelar Group, a speaking and training organization focused on the fundamentals of human interaction and their real-world application. Read her full bio.

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