Why Should I Apologize?

Mar 08, 2022
Why Should I Apologize? Conversations Worth Having Blog

“He’s insisting on an apology from me, though the situation was his fault! The gall!”

This was the challenge shared by someone who wanted to know how to turn this into a conversation worth having. Instead of jumping in to defend or discuss how to have a conversation with this as the starting point, we asked generative questions to make the invisible visible–to make clear what we didn’t know. That helped everyone learn more about the context. Questions were asked such as, Is this a pattern of behavior? Did something in your conversation trigger him? (See the whiteboard below for more of these questions.) One question that was asked, Are we trying to reframe the issue or the apology? prompted a response that provided the much-needed context for this conversation.

Name It, Flip It, Frame It

Based on the participant’s response, we discovered it was about the apology, and the problem was that this person didn’t know how to move forward. Wow! What a game-changer. This illustrates how important it is to make the context visible when talking about challenges. Flipping this challenge to its positive opposite, was the life-affirming statement, “I do know how to move forward.”

To inspire a positive frame, we asked the questions: What might be the outcome if you do know how to move forward? What conversation topic would allow you to move forward together?

Here are some possible positive frames that arose for the conversation:

  • We communicate clearly, effectively, and respectfully.
  • After a difficult situation, everyone offers how they could have done it better.
  • We communicate well, feel less stress, and can move forward.
  • Moving forward with respectful, productive conversations.

Ultimately, the frame selected by the person who was originally stuck was “Moving forward with respectful, productive conversations.” How exciting!

Apologize Questionnaire


First, notice that the original issue statement was emotionally charged and antagonistic. A conversation worth having, including any apology, was unlikely to emerge with that body-mindset. Now, notice how taking the time to get clear on the nature of the problem supported a genuine shift in body-mindset. Pausing, breathing, and getting curious does that.

How the Next Conversation Might Unfold

A new conversation might be initiated with: I know neither one of us felt good about our last conversation. I would love to talk with you about how we can move forward together with respectful, productive conversations. Are you willing to have that conversation? Are you free now or can we schedule about 30 minutes to talk? When they do talk, here are some generative questions they might ask and explore to get the conversation started:

  1. Tell me about a time when you’ve been in conversation with someone where you felt the dialogue was respectful and productive.
    • What did you value about yourself in that conversation?
    • What did you value about the other?
    • What conditions or behaviors contributed to it being respectful and productive?
  2. What would it mean for each of us to be committed to those behaviors? What would it look or sound like?
  3. How might we create those kinds of conditions when we talk?
  4. How can we remain respectful and productive if we need to remind one another of our commitment? How do we keep from triggering each other?

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