At first, I thought the multitude of thoughts was simply the failure of one’s mind to bring order to the thinking process as a result of too many cocktails. But I didn’t have that many last night, so maybe I just needed to think harder to bring order to chaos. Maybe there was a central theme to the chaos of my mind.
Thought 1. I saw something that reminded me of what remain two of the most popular posts I’ve made since I started writing this blog, After the Mistake andAfter the Mistake Redux. The central theme is the importance of owning up to mistake and saying you are sorry for it. Easy to say, hard to do. I know that from firsthand experience.
Thought 2. The laughable way celebrities and athletes (and others to be sure) apologize for bad behavior. "If anyone was offended by my stupid remark [or replace with description of your stupid behavior], then I want to apologize for the fact that your were offended by something I did not mean to be offensive." You get the drift. Randy Pausch includes a chapter in one of my favorite books, The Last Lecture, on why a bad apology is worse than no apology at all.
Thought 4. I am a fan of passion in argument, mainly because that’s how I am. I never have been able to pull off the "aw shucks, I am just a country lawyer" approach of Jimmy Stewart, or the scholarly, dispassionate Supreme Court advocate. Think Spencer Tracy in Inherit the Wind. I’m no Clarence Darrow, but I live in that neighborhood.
Thought 5. This one might be the outlier, or the trigger. Who knows. But I listened to Roseanne Cash and Bruce Springsteen sing Sea of Heartbreak. I cried, it was so moving. "The lights in the harbor don’t shine for me ….on this sea of tears, the sea of heartbreak…" The way great lyrics evoke feeling is one of life’s great mysteries, at least to me.
So, how does this come together? Effective communications, whether written, spoken or sung, have the ability to evoke feeling. In the case of apologies, they should as well. If you or your team has screwed something up for a client, follow the approach discussed in my earlier posts on handling mistakes. But you should feel pain about the mistake, and you darn sure ought to communicate that to your client in a manner that evokes feeling.
Okay, so maybe it was the Bushmills from last night after all.