Last Thursday, Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos made an Kindles.
This is an apology for the way we previously handled illegally sold copies of 1984 and other novels on Kindle. Our “solution” to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles. It is wholly self-inflicted, and we deserve the criticism we’ve received. We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.
When I read Bezos’ apology, I was impressed by how direct, sincere, and uncluttered it was. It didn’t contain an excuse. It didn’t shift blame to someone else. And the statement in its final sentence wasn’t an over-promise or an out-of-proportion exaggeration, it simply said that they will try to do better in the future. The apology also came pretty quickly, while consumer feelings were still riled.
Everyone makes mistakes. Apologizing when those mistakes are made isn’t a sign of weakness, but a sign of personal responsibility. I try to apologize when I mess up or hurt someone’s feelings or forget something important, but I don’t always get the apology right. So, I’m going to take a few lessons from Jeff Bezos and try my best to give uncluttered apologies when they’re necessary:
- Be sincere with your contrition. If you don’t feel sorry and you say that you are, you’re just lying to the person — which is yet another wrong.
- Be prompt. The longer you wait, usually the worse a situation spirals out of control.
- Take responsibility. If you are responsible, say so.
- Leave out the excuses. If the other person wants to know why you chose to do what you did, he or she will ask. An excuse doesn’t belong in your apology.
- Match the apology to the mistake. If you wrecked your friend’s car while you were borrowing it, offer to fix your friend’s car when you apologize (and do it). If you yelled at your child without warrant, apologize and explain what you will do in the future to try to prevent it from happening again.
What do you think about apologies (in general, not necessarily Bezos’) and their ability to be uncluttered? Are they better with or without excuses? What do you think of this example? I’m interested in reading your musings in the comments.