Saying ‘Sorry’ – who, why, how, what and when?

[Written by Neil Harris, Associate Partner at Brilliant Minds]  Recently there was lots of media attention on whether or not Lord Rennard should, or indeed needs to, apologise. It got me thinking about saying sorry.

First of all let me apologise in advance to anyone for whom I have incorrectly presupposed prior knowledge of NLP. That said….

NLP has spent a lot of its existence identifying the structure of all manner of skills. When it comes to saying sorry, as with all areas of human endeavour; there are people who are good at it, others who are not and the full range of shades in between.

Now I am not about to provide a definitive description of how to say sorry exquisitely, but there are NLP factors that I believe are key. Two elements in particular have been going through my mind.

The first is neuro-logical levels. Robert Dilts, who invented them was one of the trainers on my Advanced Diploma in NLP back in 1988 (this was the pre-cursor to what has now become called Master Practitioner in the UK). As part of introducing what he had created, he gave examples of how congruity includes an alignment of those levels and/or a lack of conflict between them.

So, if you are considering whether or not to say sorry about something, you might first answer the following questions. Where, when and to whom might it be a good idea to apologise? What is it that I am apologising for? How would the apology best be given? Why is it important or necessary to apologise? Who exactly is it that is apologising? In deciding your answer to those questions, how can you formulate it so as to be congruent and unambiguous in your expressing it?

The second element is related to Roger Bailey’s creation, made more widely known and available by Shelle Rose Charvet, called LAB Profiling. LAB Profile includes a distinction about being motivated by either internally determined factors/considerations or external ones. So someone who is internally referenced will need to determine their own personal reasons for apologising, whereas someone who is externally referenced will apologise because ‘out there’ requires it.

When I was a coach on one of Shelle’s LAB Profile trainers’ trainings in Canada a few years ago, we identified a set of behaviours associated with being both internally and externally referenced at the same time, but at different levels.

What happens when someone is internally referenced at a behaviour level (ie only I will/can be the judge of whether to apologise and if so what is the right way to do it) and, at the same time, externally referenced at an identity level (ie regardless of whether or not I apologise and how I do it, I need others to tell me that I am OK as a person in order to feel good about myself)? Well there are lots of things that can be done, but then that’s another story.

Sorry if you were expecting something more definitive!

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