Monday, September 20, 2010

I'm Sorry

Came across this blog post…and I have to share it with you…
5 Meaningless Apologies...and one that works

You've probably experienced it before, maybe more times than you care to count. You know...somebody apologizes to you, but the apology is cluttered with background noise. Rather than a sincere apology where the offender takes full responsibility for their words and actions, there's a hint of justification, arrogance, or even denial in their so called "apology." Before this turns into a pity party, let's look in the mirror for a moment. Chances are you've done the same to someone else. I know I have.

The problem is we play games with our apologies--five games to be exact. In her book,
The Art of Mentoring, Shirley Peddy describes these meaningless games that turn into meaningless apologies:

1. The Legal Game - This game involves transferring blame to the other party. Peddy says the legal game sounds like this: "I'm sorry that you took what I said the wrong way." This tactic suggests that the person we offended has the problem, not us. I'm pretty sure I recall a few politicians and public figures using this line.

2. The Journalistic Approach - This strategy attributes every detail of the situation to an unnamed source. The Journalistic approach sounds like this: "I was told you had handled this. That's why I reacted so strongly." My reaction is under my control, nobody else's. It's a choice.

3. The Scientific Apology - This approach pulls the situation under a microscope where every detail is agonized over. Here's how Peddy describes it: "Did A lead to B? Was there a scientific cause behind it? You say, 'I did X because you did Y. Perhaps if you had done Z...' Get my drift?"

4. The Theatrical Apology - This apology is high on drama. Here's how Peddy articulates it: "Oh, I can't believe I could have done something so awful. You wouldn't believe what was going on here. I mean, it's a zoo! Can you ever forgive me?" There's no need for the drama in an apology. It's nothing more than an attempt to justify our behavior.

5. The Political Apology - The final meaningless apology is political in if something happened but nobody was there. Peddy says the political apology sounds like this: "We regret a mistake was made by someone. Of course, since we had no control of the situation, we can't assume responsibility for the event." Ever heard a large company make an apology like this that was broadcast by the media for the world to hear. It lacks heart, sincerity, and avoids any responsibility.

So what's the appropriate way to apologize? Consider the Gracious Apology. The gracious apology takes full responsibility without twisting things, creating a bunch of drama, or shifting the blame. Peddy asserts that a gracious apology means that we fully admit our mistake, give opportunity for the other party to respond, empathize with their feelings, offer to correct the situation, and follow the apology with action steps.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Random thoughts....

"The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians – when they are somber and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths. But, though it is just to condemn some Christians for these things, perhaps, after all, it is not just, though very easy, to condemn Christianity itself for them. Indeed, there are impressive indications that the positive quality of joy is in Christianity – and possibly nowhere else."

- Sheldon Vanauken

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Taking a detour....

I found this article and I thought I would share it! Since I get scores of emails every day, I am dumbfounded at how people often misuse this medium.

“Therefore, I would like to humbly offer up 18 suggestions for better e-mail communication and etiquette:

1. Understand the difference between “To” and “CC.” As a rule of thumb, the more people you send an email to, the less likely any single person will respond to it, much less perform any action that you requested. The people you include in the “To” field should be the people you expect to read and respond to the message. The “CC” field should be used sparingly. You should only CC people who have a need to stay in the know. The “BCC” field should be used even more sparingly. People you include in the “BCC” field will not visible to others.

2. Keep messages brief and to the point. Make your most important point first, then provide detail if necessary. Make it clear at the beginning of the message why you are writing. There is nothing worse for the recipient than having to wade through a long message to get to the point. Worse, if you send long messages, it is much less likely that the person will act on what you have sent or respond to it. It’s just too much work. It often gets set aside and, unfortunately, forgotten.

3. Don’t discuss multiple subjects in a single message. If you need to discuss more than one subject, send multiple e-mails. This makes it easy to scan subject lines later to find the message you need. It also contributes to briefer e-mail messages and a greater likelihood of a response. Also, the more specific you can be about your subject heading, the better.

4. Reply in a timely manner. I don’t think e-mail demands an instantaneous response. I have written about this elsewhere. Responding once or twice a day is sufficient, unless you are in sales, customer service, tech support, or some other field where a faster response is expected. Regardless, you must reply in a timely manner, otherwise you will incrementally damage your reputation and decrease your effectiveness.

5. Be mindful of your tone. Unlike face-to-face meetings or even phone calls, those who read your e-mail messages don’t have the benefit of your pitch, tone, inflection, or other non-verbal cues. As a result, you need to be careful about your tone. Sarcasm is especially dangerous. If something gets “lost in translation,” you risk offending the other party. The more matter-of-fact you can be, the better.

6. Don’t use e-mail to criticize others. E-mail is a terrific way to commend someone or praise them. It is not an appropriate medium for criticism. Chances are, you will simply offend the other person, and they will miss your point. These kinds of conversations are usually better handled face-to-face or, if necessary, over the phone. Especially, don’t use e-mail to criticize a third party. E-mail messages live forever. They are easily forwarded. You can create a firestorm of conflict if you are not careful. Trust me, I’ve done it myself more than once.

7. Don’t reply in anger. In the heat of the moment, I have written some brilliant replies. I have said things in writing that I would never have the guts to say face-to-face. This is precisely why you should never ever fire off an e-mail in anger. They almost never serve their purpose or your long-term interests. They burn up relationships faster than just about anything you can do. If it makes you feel better, go ahead and write the message, then delete it. Usually a day or two after you didn’t send an angry e-mail, you’ll understand the wisdom of restraint.

8. Don’t overuse “reply to all.” Last week I received an e-mail from someone who needed to know my shirt-size for a golf tournament. He sent the e-mail to about ten or twelve people. No problem with that. However, some of the recipients, hit the “reply all” key (out of habit, I am sure) and sent their shirt size to everyone on the list. This, of course, just adds more clutter to everyone’s already unwieldily inbox. Your default response should be to reply only to the sender. Before you reply to everyone, make sure that everyone needs to know.

9. Don’t forward chain letters. These can be forgiven when they are from your mother, but they only add clutter in the workplace. Nine times out of ten, the information is bogus. It is often urban legend. If you feel you absolutely must pass it on, please make sure that it is valid information. If in doubt, check it out at, a Web site devoted to tracking urban legends and rumors.

10. Don’t “copy up” as a means of coercion. It’s one thing to copy someone’s boss as a courtesy. I do this whenever I am making an assignment to someone who is not a direct report. (I don’t want their boss to think I am going around them, but I also don’t want to bog my communication down in bureaucratic red tape.) But it is not a good idea to do this as a subtle—or not-so subtle—form of coercion. You may be tempted to do this when you don’t get a response to an earlier request. But I would suggest that you will be better served to pick up the phone and call the person. If they are not responding to your e-mails, try a different communications strategy.

11. Don’t overuse the “high priority” flag. Most e-mail programs allow you to set the priority of the message. “High priority” should be reserved for messages that are truly urgent. If you use it for every message (as one person I know does), you will simply be ignored. It’s like the boy who cried “wolf” one too many times.

12. Don’t write in ALL CAPS. This is the digital equivalent of shouting. Besides ALL CAPS are harder to read (as anyone in advertising will tell you.)

13. Don’t send or forward emails containing libelous, defamatory, offensive, racist or obscene remarks. If you do so, you can put yourself or your company at risk. You could be sued for simply passing something along, even if you aren’t the original author.

14. Remember that company e-mail isn’t private. You have no legal protection. Anyone with sufficient authority or access can monitor your conversations on company-owned servers. If you need to communicate privately, then get a free account at
GMail. Use it for anything personal or private.

15. Use a signature with your contact information. This is a courtesy for those receiving your messages. It also cuts down on e-mail messages, since people don’t have to send a second or third e-mail asking for your phone number or mailing address.

16. Provide “if-then” options. This is another tip I picked up from Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Work Week. He says to provide options to avoid the back and forth of single option messages. For example, “If you have completed the assignment, then please confirm that via e-mail. If not, then please estimate when you expect to finish.” Or, “I can meet at 10:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m. Will one of those times work? If not, would you please reply with three times that would work for you?”

17. Use your spell-checker. I take my correspondence seriously. It reflects on me. As a publishing executive, I think the bar is even higher. If I misspell words, use bad grammar or punctuation, then I think it reflects negatively on me and my company. Lapses in grammar or punctuation can be forgiven. But misspelled words are just too easy to correct. That’s why God gave us spell-checkers. Make sure yours is turned on.

18. Re-read your e-mail before you send it. I try to do this with every single message. My fingers have difficulty keeping up with my brain. It is not unusual for me to drop a word or two as I am racing to transcribe a thought. Therefore, it’s a good idea to re-read your messages and make sure that you are communicating clearly and observing good e-mail etiquette.

If you have other e-mail etiquette suggestions, please post a comment at the end of this post. If there’s something that drives you crazy, I’d like to hear about that as well. Most of us, I’m sure have ideas that can make e-mail a more civilized, effective tool for communication.”


Thursday, September 02, 2010

Wanting something more....

Winston Churchill said, "The day may dawn when fair play, love for one's fellow men, respect for justice and freedom, will enable tormented generations to march forth serene and triumphant from the hideous epoch in which we have to dwell. Meanwhile, never flinch, never weary, never despair."

Churchill longed for a day of justice and freedom, when people play fair and love one another, he described the relational world Jesus said we should long for...and pray for. Churchill called for "courageous and indefatigable effort." Until then, he eloquently proclaimed, we must never give up.
Until God's "kingdom comes" and His "will is done," we long for it; the question is, "Do I want it enough? Do I want it so much that I won't flinch, weary, despair or quit? Those are just some of the questions now churning inside of me.
Galatians 6:2-10 says "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."