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Don’t disempower yourself

Hello guys,

this is a simple concept: don’t disempower yourself.

That means not talking bad about oneself, not emphasizing one’s own mistakes.

Vulnerability is normal. However as Lucio said it has a context when it’s appropriate to be vulnerable.

Also there is a how of being vulnerable and also with who.

I don’t have specific examples. If I encounter some I’ll share them with you.

We cannot know in advance if our vulnerability will be received. So you have to learn it through experience.

It is a key concept though: don’t disempower yourself.

It is an act of self-love. One can laugh about oneself without disempowering oneself. Just by acknowledging not being perfect.

There’s a difference between sub communicating (framing) oneself as not perfect versus being a lousy person.

Cheers!

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Lucio BuffalmanoAli ScarlettlilsimAlexBel

Agreed with this, John.

If you're cool with it, I'm moving it to "strategies", since "techniques" is more about specific applications and examples -ideally, with a case study attached-.

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John Freeman
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on April 20, 2022, 12:34 pm

If you're cool with it, I'm moving it to "strategies", since "techniques" is more about specific applications and examples -ideally, with a case study attached-.

Totally relevant.

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Lucio Buffalmano

I tried out this concept a while back in a situation where I was expected to apologize, and I think it worked quite well.

I was working at a restaurant one night when there were almost no customers. About two hours before closing there were only three couples left, and they were all sitting on one side of the restaurant. I asked my boss if I should start vacuuming the empty side, and he said it was fine. After I was done vacuuming I went to take the payment of one of the last couples and the following interaction occurred:

Me: Did everything taste well? Are you satisfied?

Her: No, it wasn't good when you vacuumed. We don't want to listen to that. (Here she was expecting me to apologize)

Me: Yeah. I can understand that. (I refuse to apologize)

Him: For a while we were thinking that we didn't want to come back here again.

Me: I understand. Would you like the receipt?

Afterwards, before they left they came up to the counter and thanked me and wished me a good night. However, they were very pleasant people from the beginning so it might not have had anything to do with my interaction.

The reason I didn't apologize, even though I knew I was in the wrong, was because I felt like it wouldn't make the situation better. I've had similar experiences with customers that aren't pleased, and when I apologize they seem to get even angrier as if they are thinking "he admits that he was in the wrong, so my anger must be justified".

Since this interaction I have been less willing to apologize for things unless I've done something that I really feel sorry about. For example, I don't apologize for making mistakes at work because that's something that happens to everyone. Instead if someone gets angry I opt to say things like "I'll do my best not to do it again".

Basically, I feel like apologizing expands on my mistakes and the frame that I'm in the wrong, and I am therefore more careful about when and why I apologize. I'm still undecided about whether or not my approach is good or if it just turns me into an a-hole.

I'm curious to hear what others think of this.

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Lucio BuffalmanoJohn FreemanAnonBel

Thought provoking post!

-Apologizing in general-

It appears the common apologizing-habits dilute the very concept:
It implies that you have to be absolutely perfect towards other people, and if you are not, you have to apologize for being (naturally) imperfect.

That's a very low-power position to be in (a people pleaser basically) and such an apology basically means nothing, the smallest of mistakes can trigger it. And it is indeed often triggered like an automatic response.

So I think it is a good idea to stop apologizing for basically nothing or small mistakes out of habit. I wouldn't reject the concept itself, so like you said, if there is something one feels really sorry about, I see nothing wrong to express that.

-People explicitly demanding an apology-

It has been a long time since something like this happened to me, but there are certainly some people who feel very entitled about you apologizing to them about something.
If they explicitly demand an apology, that's likely a red flag, they probably want to exploit a minor mistake of yours to crush you in a low power position.

Quote from Mats G on May 11, 2022, 7:20 pm

The reason I didn't apologize, even though I knew I was in the wrong, was because I felt like it wouldn't make the situation better. I've had similar experiences with customers that aren't pleased, and when I apologize they seem to get even angrier as if they are thinking "he admits that he was in the wrong, so my anger must be justified".

Since this interaction I have been less willing to apologize for things unless I've done something that I really feel sorry about. For example, I don't apologize for making mistakes at work because that's something that happens to everyone. Instead if someone gets angry I opt to say things like "I'll do my best not to do it again".

Basically, I feel like apologizing expands on my mistakes and the frame that I'm in the wrong, and I am therefore more careful about when and why I apologize. I'm still undecided about whether or not my approach is good or if it just turns me into an a-hole.

I'm curious to hear what others think of this.

That's a valuable observation and a very plausible explanation I think.

-If I fail my own standards that I apply to others-

If I do something that would piss me off if I were on the receiving end of it, I usually own it in a way that's close to apologizing, but doesn't depend on it:

So for example if I'm significantly late on an agreed upon time, and it was a mistake in my planning, I outright say for example that there is no good reason for me being late, and I simply did not plan well and did not intend to make them wait for me.

Basically showing them that I'm aware of the whole picture of the situation, and that I judge those actions as improper myself, while not loosing all dignity.
That usually is received well without any explicit apology (but could probably be combined with a quick one).

-Horrible Mistakes-

If I would make a horrible mistake that causes significant harm to someone else for example, a mistake that I could have reasonably avoided, but for no good reason hadn't - then I would own that mistake and very likely also apologize for it (or ask for forgiveness, I'm not sure).

But even then it would probably be better to wait and to think about the whole situation and it's impact, instead of doing it automatically and in the pressure of a moment. That would also make it more honest and also more meaningful for the other side I think.

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Lucio BuffalmanoTransitionedMats GBel
Quote from Anon on May 11, 2022, 10:48 pm

It appears the common apologizing-habits dilute the very concept:
It implies that you have to be absolutely perfect towards other people, and if you are not, you have to apologize for being (naturally) imperfect.

That's a very low-power position to be in (a people pleaser basically) and such an apology basically means nothing, the smallest of mistakes can trigger it. And it is indeed often triggered like an automatic response.

Thank you Anon! I hadn't even thought about this, but now that you say it it makes so much sense.

When I don't apologize I tend to feel guilty about it (not the action itself, but the fact that I'm not apologizing), but I'm not convinced that's a good reason to apologize. I think that an apology coming from the mindset "I am supposed to apologize in this situation" is not quite genuine. A more genuine apology would, in my opinion, come from a mindset of "I feel sorry about what I did and want to apologize to the person".

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Lucio BuffalmanoAnonBel
Quote from Mats G on May 11, 2022, 7:20 pm

I tried out this concept a while back in a situation where I was expected to apologize, and I think it worked quite well.

I was working at a restaurant one night when there were almost no customers. About two hours before closing there were only three couples left, and they were all sitting on one side of the restaurant. I asked my boss if I should start vacuuming the empty side, and he said it was fine. After I was done vacuuming I went to take the payment of one of the last couples and the following interaction occurred:

Me: Did everything taste well? Are you satisfied?

Her: No, it wasn't good when you vacuumed. We don't want to listen to that. (Here she was expecting me to apologize)

Me: Yeah. I can understand that. (I refuse to apologize)

Him: For a while we were thinking that we didn't want to come back here again.

Me: I understand. Would you like the receipt?

Afterwards, before they left they came up to the counter and thanked me and wished me a good night. However, they were very pleasant people from the beginning so it might not have had anything to do with my interaction.

The reason I didn't apologize, even though I knew I was in the wrong, was because I felt like it wouldn't make the situation better. I've had similar experiences with customers that aren't pleased, and when I apologize they seem to get even angrier as if they are thinking "he admits that he was in the wrong, so my anger must be justified".

Since this interaction I have been less willing to apologize for things unless I've done something that I really feel sorry about. For example, I don't apologize for making mistakes at work because that's something that happens to everyone. Instead if someone gets angry I opt to say things like "I'll do my best not to do it again".

Basically, I feel like apologizing expands on my mistakes and the frame that I'm in the wrong, and I am therefore more careful about when and why I apologize. I'm still undecided about whether or not my approach is good or if it just turns me into an a-hole.

I'm curious to hear what others think of this.

Haven't read the other answers yet, but certainly going to -and very curious to read them-.

I wanted to quickly get this out though:

The fact that you don't necessarily apologize doesn't necessarily mean you can't re-empower them, empathize with them, or be courteous.

Such as: you can avoid disempowering yourself, but still "take a step towards them", re-empower them, and find a way in the middle.

You did the empathize, great!

You may have done also a bit more.

Ie.:

Me: Did everything taste well? Are you satisfied?

Her: No, it wasn't good when you vacuumed. We don't want to listen to that.

Me: Yeah, that wasn't cool, I was focused on the job and it truly never crossed my mind (my bad) (next time, I won't vacuum)

Him: For a while we were thinking that we didn't want to come back here again.

Me: I really hope you will, you seem like great people. How was the rest of the food and service?

Elements that we'll consider here:

  • Aligning / agreeing: "yeah, that wasn't cool"
  • Non-disempowering apology / ownership of mistake: "my bad"
  • Making amends and re-empowering them with (future actions): "next time I won't vacuum"
  • Briding for win-win: "I hope you will, you seem like great people"
  • Getting their buy-in / making them part of the resolution: "how was the rest of the food and service?"

"That wasn't cool" aligns with them more strongly, and helps them "make them whole" more than simple empathizing.

"My bad", optional, goes one step further.
It's still not a direct apology, but it does take ownership.
How you'll make amends next is also an important step that is independent of an apology, but that still "makes them whole".
And if you can agree that they had a good point -which they may have had, you know the situation better-, then it's probably good to add both -or at least the making amends part-.

Finally, the last line re-empowers them with a compliment (you said they were indeed good folks, so also true). Notice that it's also quite high power to take responsibility for the business. That's owner-mentality and behavior.
When you ask "how was the rest" you pass them the ball to be kind back to you: now they have the chance to also play a compliment.
If they do, it's back to win-win.
If they don't, chances go up they were complaining assholes, so it's better if they don't come back 🙂

There are shades of grey to apologizing

Finally, let's keep in mind that words are not standalone.

Tonality and body language can either add or remove from them.
"I'm sorry" with a flat tonality for example is an apology in words, but it doesn't go the full length of "disempowering, servile apology". And it maintains almost all the power.

Also, "I'm sorry about that" is different and more empowering than a standalone "I'm sorry".
"About that" is about the action, not about the person being defective.

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AnonTransitionedMats GBel
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
Quote from Mats G on May 11, 2022, 11:43 pm

When I don't apologize I tend to feel guilty about it (not the action itself, but the fact that I'm not apologizing), but I'm not convinced that's a good reason to apologize. I think that an apology coming from the mindset "I am supposed to apologize in this situation" is not quite genuine. A more genuine apology would, in my opinion, come from a mindset of "I feel sorry about what I did and want to apologize to the person".

I think it's great that you are so aware of your thought patterns, and I totally agree, it's not a good reason to apologize, and it makes sense to think about why not apologizing about something that you feel not guilty about should be a bigger bad than the act itself.

But I can totally relate to this and it could stem from our desire to fit in (or at least not stand out in a bad way).

I think the most important step to change that is to be aware of these dynamics and to have a better solution to the problem.
Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on May 12, 2022, 5:08 am

The fact that you don't necessarily apologize doesn't necessarily mean you can't re-empower them, empathize with them, or be courteous.

Such as: you can avoid disempowering yourself, but still "take a step towards them", re-empower them, and find a way in the middle.

Sounds like a great approach to me - not simply cutting the apology out, but replacing its function with something way more effective.

 

Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on May 12, 2022, 5:08 am

Me: Did everything taste well? Are you satisfied?

Her: No, it wasn't good when you vacuumed. We don't want to listen to that.

Me:Yeah, that wasn't cool, I was focused on the job and it truly never crossed my mind (my bad) (next time, I won't vacuum)

Him: For a while we were thinking that we didn't want to come back here again.

Me:I really hope you will, you seem like great people. How was the rest of the food and service?

Elements that we'll consider here:

  • Aligning / agreeing: "yeah, that wasn't cool"
  • Non-disempowering apology / ownership of mistake: "my bad"
  • Making amends and re-empowering them with (future actions): "next time I won't vacuum"
  • Briding for win-win: "I hope you will, you seem like great people"
  • Getting their buy-in / making them part of the resolution: "how was the rest of the food and service?"

"That wasn't cool" aligns with them more strongly, and helps them "make them whole" more than simple empathizing.

"My bad", optional, goes one step further.
It's still not a direct apology, but it does take ownership.
How you'll make amends next is also an important step that is independent of an apology, but that still "makes them whole".
And if you can agree that they had a good point -which they may have had, you know the situation better-, then it's probably good to add both -or at least the making amends part-.

Finally, the last line re-empowers them with a compliment (you said they were indeed good folks, so also true). Notice that it's also quite high power to take responsibility for the business. That's owner-mentality and behavior.
When you ask "how was the rest" you pass them the ball to be kind back to you: now they have the chance to also play a compliment.
If they do, it's back to win-win.
If they don't, chances go up they were complaining assholes, so it's better if they don't come back 🙂

Awesome to see the process presented like that, makes it very actionable and one very conscious about the dynamic. Way more effective than any of the common apology-phrases, and not disempowering.

Considering that it can be a common situation to be in over the course of ones' life, and that it can be very important to get this right, it could be a good idea to link from PU to this post/thread, for example from here.

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Lucio BuffalmanoTransitionedMats G
Quote from Anon on May 12, 2022, 11:00 am

Sounds like a great approach to me - not simply cutting the apology out, but replacing its function with something way more effective.

Yes, and what you said you do in your own post, to own the mistake, is also a very effective (and high power) way of taking a step towards them.

As I sad note, "my apologies" is also a way of apologizing, but it cuts out the (often fake) self-flagellating regret.

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AnonTransitioned
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
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