Sorry is the hardest word

August 10th, 2011

An unprompted apology from my teenage son, not only demonstrated his growing maturity but also got me thinking how powerful and effective the word is in resolving any conflict situation.

In this example, my son had got annoyed because I was not paying him full attention. His apology for his reaction to this had a powerful effect on me. Firstly I was very proud that he recognised the need to apologise and acted on it and secondly it helped me to understand why he had got annoyed in the first place. We both better understood our part to play and resolved matters very quickly and easily, so much so that I am not even sure that it ever got to a real conflict situation in the first place!

In any sort of workplace conflict,  what most aggrieved parties really want is some form of an apology. Ultimately this is often far more powerful and valuable than anything else. The apology is both a recognition of the other parties understanding of the impact of the behaviour or situation on the other person and an acknowledgement (to some degree or other) of their part in this.

Mediation is far more likely to achieve some form of apology than other conflict resolution processes.  In a workplace situation mediation will explore the underlying causes and issues and will result in each party having a better understanding of the others position. It will attempt to bring those respective conditions together in a way that satisfies both and in many cases an apology will form part of this. This is certainly something that is very rarely achieved once parties are locked into a formal or legal process where positions become defensive and entrenched.

So sorry might well be the hardest word but it is a very powerful and effective one.

For more information on how the mediation process works and how it compares to other processes visit my website at

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The report was very professional, it dealt with all the issues raised and was particularly thorough. It clearly took the time to fully understand all of the issues and background. It was complex but the report really helped to break it down and I’m hoping we can progress in a positive manner following the recommendations.

Group HR Manager, Energy Sector |

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