Apologizing with style

December 3rd, 2010

We all make mistakes. And sometimes, dreadfully, we have to be told of those mistakes by other people. It’s awkward to be the person who has to tell someone they’ve screwed up, and it’s worse to be the person who’s done it. But if both parties take to their roles with enthusiasm, grace, humor, and goodwill, the results can be … surprisingly delightful.

My Cousin Dan has a good relationship with his dentist and their whole office — he’s even personal friends with some of them. Cousin Dan, also, although an extremely organized person, can let things slip occasionally. Like bills. Like dental bills. As he wrote me yesterday:

Anyway, this is embarrassing, but I’m really overdue on a payment. Rather than turn it over to collections, they wrote me a letter and reminded me of the Christmas party…and that I’ve been a guest there before…and that without my payment, there will be no Christmas party this year for anyone..no merriment..and on and on.

He felt terrible, of course, but genuinely appreciated the fact that they gave him a chance to make it right on a personal level, not just a business one, and handled it with a humorous touch at that. “I think the only way to respond to this is to go to the office tomorrow, wearing a paper bag over my head, carrying the payment and an arrangement from Edible Arrangements,” he continued.

And so he did:

“I told him I couldn’t find sack cloth so the brown paper bag on my head would have to do.”

Now this is the way to call someone out, and to make amends. It’s the antithesis in spirit to the Lady Who Hit My Friend with the Door. I sent Cousin Dan a link to that piece, afterward, and he told me it’s long been one of his favorite things I ever wrote.

Guess it runs in the family.


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