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How To Apologize Online, by Derek Powazek


The discussion below refers to this article on Medium:

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Looks at how to get past a business crisis through sincere apology.

Great lede:

Two high profile apologies hit the web today, one from Kickstarter and the other from Paula Deen. Without getting into the specifics of whatthey were each apologizing for, they make for two fascinating case studies in how to apologize online.

I like this: "We have done wrong, and I stand with many others who now recognize the need to offer apologies and make things right."

Step 1: Restate the problem.

I know, you’re embarrassed. You probably don’t want to remind everyone of the thing that pissed them off. But apologies online take on a life of their own, bringing in people who are unfamiliar with the details.

Step 2: Own it.

Before you do anything else, prove that you know what you did. This shows that you’re not just apologizing because someone told you that you have to – you’re apologizing because you have genuine remorse.

Step 3: Say you’re sorry.

Now that you’ve demonstrated your understanding of the situation, your apology will have more meaning. Never, ever follow the word “sorry” with the word “if” – as in: “I’m sorry if you’re offended.”

Step 4: Explain what went wrong.

This is a tricky maneuver. Do it right and your explanation will add valuable details that help the reader better understand your perspective. Do it wrong and it’ll sound like defensiveness.

Explaining what went wrong doesn’t mean excusing it. But, if handled correctly, it can serve to humanize the apologizer.

Step 5: Make a vow.

Explaining what happened shows you understand the past, making a vow shows you’ve thought about the future. Make a promise to not repeat this mistake. Do it at a permanent URL and be clear about what you’re promising. You’ll be judged by how you keep your word.

Step 6: Make amends.

Prove you get it. Apologizing isn’t just about words, it’s about deeds. Do something to prove that you understand the magnitude of your mistake.

Step 7: Apologize again.

Apologies don’t have a 1:1 ratio with mistakes. You may have to apologize more than once. Don’t like apologizing? Pick a career that doesn’t involve other people.

The article also notes that it's better to apologize by text than by video.

Mistakes are inevitable. How you respond is what defines you. Use the apology opportunity to reinforce your values. If you do it right, you’ll create a stronger bond with your community, one that will earn you the benefit of the doubt the next time you screw up.

This article is so worth re-reading in light of recent events of GitHub and Mozilla. 

Kudos to Derek Powazek for writing something timeless and timely. 

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