Despite our best efforts, trust can sometimes break down in your veterinary team and understanding the do’s and don’ts of apologising is essential.
In our last post, we shared the seven elements of trusting relationships and how they are integral when discussing trust: 7 Elements of building trusting relationships in your veterinary team. Part 2 – Building trust within your veterinary team
When our veterinary teams understand these building blocks of trust and learn how to integrate them into their daily interactions, they not only improve their communication with their colleagues but also contribute to creating a culture of trust.
With a culture of trust, your practice becomes a psychologically safe workplace, improving team member engagement, increasing retention, and reducing burnout.
As a result, you’ll also see uplifts inside the consulting room as your team works more harmoniously towards positive patient outcomes and client communication improves.
In Part 3 of our series on trust, we’ll discuss the dos and don’ts of apologising when you’re responsible for a breakdown of trust.
How to Apologise Well
Despite our best efforts, situations will arise that destabilise trust within our veterinary teams. We’re all human, and we all make mistakes.
When trust breaks down, it can lead to interpersonal conflict, which, for many, can be a chronic and recurring source of pain, angst, and anxiety.
But, when handled correctly, interpersonal conflict can be a turning point to set expectations and strengthen the entire team.
It starts by learning how to apologise and empowering your veterinary team with this indispensable skillset.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Harriet Lerner has developed nine principles for a proper apology, which involves a list of the workplace’s dos and don’ts of apologising.
Tips for the Perfect Apology
Focus on what you did
Do focus on what you did, not on the other person’s feelings. Empty apologies that detract from your actions (e.g., “I’m sorry that you felt hurt”) inadvertently shift the blame onto the wronged party.
Don’t say the word ‘but’. When you add the word ‘but’ in the middle of an apology, you cancel out everything that came before. If you feel the need to justify your reaction, then it’s not a true apology.
Include a fitting offer of reparation
Do include an offer of reparation that fits the situation. For example, if you lose an item that belongs to another, offer to replace it. Compensation should be adequate to the needs of the wronged party.
Don’t overdo apologies. When you over apologise for any perceived wrong, you not only come across as self-centred, but your apologies may backfire as the wronged party starts absorbing the blame.
Focus on where you went wrong
Do focus on where you went wrong in the situation. A true apology is not an excuse to play the blame game. Focus your apology on your role only, without calling attention to the perceived wrongs of the other person.
Don’t attempt to silence the other person. Ending your apology by asking the wronged party not to bring it up again nullifies their feelings and detracts from your effort to apologise in the first place.
Apologise for the sake of others
Do apologise for the benefit of others, not yourself. Apologies are not to relieve yourself of guilt but to help heal the other person. A true apology occurs when the wronged party wants to receive it.
Don’t ask the wronged party to do anything – not even to forgive. No apology should have strings attached. Apologies should be given freely, without any expectations on the other person.
Avoid repeating mistakes
Do your best to avoid repeating mistakes. Taking responsibility for your actions extends beyond the apology; it means taking action to ensure you don’t repeat old behaviours.
We hope you enjoyed our three-part series on trust. To read more blog posts from the Lincoln Institute of Veterinary Business, click on my Author’s profile below.