A story in the Dominion Post this morning (February 4, 2013) sparked my interest. It is fifty years since a young man, high on alcohol and tranquilizers shot two policemen in cold blood.
He served over 11 years in jail and another 10 years on probation and has since lived a productive life, it would appear. He is now 77 year old with children and grandchildren. I have no quibble about his punishment and am delighted that he has done well with his life.
However, I am struck by how difficult it is for him to own up fully to wrongs he did in the past, even though it was a serious offence.
The words that he was reported as saying were:
“I feel for the widow. It was a terrible thing that happened but unfortunately it did happen”
“I can’t explain it. It’s a tragedy that should never have happened.”
“Anyone can lose their rag and anything can happen”.
It’s as if he wasn't a part of what happened and has no direct responsibility for his actions.
To make a really good power apology he needed to say
“I did it, it has caused you a lot of pain and grief and I am sorry”.
I feel sorry for this man because he doesn't have the skills to really make a powerful apology. Maybe he fears that if he names the terrible truth of what he did it will destroy him.
Evidence would suggest that when people tell the truth about what they did it sets them free. This is what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission did in South Africa after apartheid. There was no chance to make up for the lives lost, but there was the chance for perpetrators to own up and tell the truth about what they did and for people to hear the truth.
While this is a more serious incident than you would meet in the workplace there is plenty that we can learn about holding difficult conversations and doing good customer service.
Having the skills to own up to making mistakes, however minor, will improve your relationship with others, customers, colleagues and family.
We teach these skills in the TUF programme.
Naming things courageously is a far better way of establishing good communication than fudging and saying “It happened”
First posted by John Faisandier on 4th February, 2013