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How to deliver the perfect EMS apology

EMS can get emotional; at some point your behavior is bound to hurt those around you, and it will take more than a simple ‘I’m sorry’ to fix things

Making amends means taking the necessary actions to make the situation right again, starting with a sincere apology.

Here is a secret about being an EMS leader: We make mistakes.

Not many people know or acknowledge this, but it’s real and something you will encounter in your leadership career. And because we make mistakes, there may be the need to apologize for your actions.

I recently found myself in the position of having to say “I’m sorry” after my emotions got the better of me. The perfect apology in a business setting can be a bit more involved than what’s required in your personal life, where friends and family usually forgive us for transgressions.

In business, colleagues and peers can choose to hold a grudge, thus affecting your professional abilities and effectiveness. With this in mind, delivering the perfect business apology can be slightly more complex.

Yet whether it’s written or verbal, there are five basic components of a good apology:

  1. A sincere apology opens the doors to communication with you and the other person
  2. It displays your willingness to admit to your mistakes
  3. It helps restore dignity to the person hurt or insulted
  4. It displays your remorse for your actions
  5. It shows you acknowledge your actions had a negative impact on the other person

The perfect EMS apology in four steps

Here are four steps to the perfect apology.

1. Convey remorse

This first step is the most important because it shows that your words are honest, sincere and authentic. In addition to starting with “I’m sorry,” or “Please forgive me,” you should also add the reason for the apology, as in, “I’m sorry for reacting the way I did, and I feel embarrassed for acting unprofessionally.”

You should also convey an apology as soon as you realize you wronged someone. Being real is the key here; if you have an ulterior motive, it may be transparent and minimize your apology’s effectiveness.

2. Take responsibility

During your apology, you may be tempted to explain your actions away. Even though you think it may be helpful, making excuses can actually weaken your apology. Don’t pass the blame onto someone or something else.

Instead, you need to empathize with the person and demonstrate that you realize your mistake and regret the action. Try not to make assumptions about how they felt, but putting yourself in their shoes and picturing how you would have felt in the same situation can help deliver a strong message.

3. Make amends

Making amends means taking the necessary actions to make the situation right again. A simple statement like, “If there is anything I can do to make up for this incident, please ask,” goes a long way.

You also need to be prepared to follow through, and not just make your statement an empty promise.

4. Promise it won’t happen again

This is a vital step because you need to reassure the person you will change your behavior, and begin rebuilding trust in your ability to fixing the relationship. With that said, once you promise to change the behavior, if you don’t follow through, you will do irreversible damage to your reputation and your trustworthiness.

Once you have apologized, you should also not expect instant forgiveness. It may take folks different lengths of time to process the information and feel comfortable enough to forgive you.

The person you are apologizing to may even become angry and give you an earful in return. You should allow him to vent, and at the end of the rant, give a final apology.

In your daily responsibilities as an EMS leader, we deal with endless different situations that may lead to the need for an apology. On a final note, if your behavior could result in legal action or possible liability against you or your organization, delay your apology and seek the advice of your legal counsel.

This article was originally posted Oct. 16, 2014. It has been updated.

Chris Cebollero is head of operations for QuickMedic. Cebollero is a nationally recognized Emergency Medical Services leader, best selling author, and advocate. He is a member of the Forbes Coaching Council and available for speaking, coaching and mentoring. Cebollero is a member of the EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board. Follow him on Twitter @ChiefofEMS and on Facebook.