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Don't say sorry, Virgin...try this instead

Published on March 14th, 2017 by Jamie Summers

It’s early morning and I am travelling on the Virgin Train Service from Manchester to London Euston. I have just been to purchase my morning coffee and porridge and I want to share my experience with you.

I made my way to the onboard shop where I waited a minute or two as the very polite young man called Orhan served the couple in front of me.

When it came to serving me he said

“I am so sorry you have had to wait, it’s one of those days where nothing seems to be working right”. 

I told him not to apologise to which he replied:

“I’m sorry but it’s my first week and I am still trying to get used to things”. 

I introduced myself to Orhan and complimented him on the excellent job that he was doing and I asked him if I could share something with him that he may find useful in his new job. He lent in to listen contently.

I explained to him that saying sorry is something that comes from our childhood, something we are taught to say when we have been naughty or when we have done something wrong.

As a child it’s perfectly fine to say sorry but as an adult it does something completely different.

It shifts the power. It turns you into the child and the person you say sorry to the parent. Its quite common and not something everyone is aware of.

So I suggested to Orhan that he tried something a little different in his new job. Use empathy rather than an apology.

Rather than saying sorry say something like this:

“I know you’ve been waiting a while, no one likes waiting so let me get what you need as quickly as I can”

or

“I see you are a little frustrated because of the wait. I would feel the same so let me serve you as quickly as possible”

I explained to him that communicating to peoples emotions rather than just saying sorry is so much more powerful and keeps you from slipping into ‘parent / child’ syndrome.

So Orhan – keep doing an excellent job and remember – only be sorry if you have done something wrong.

Otherwise use empathy – it blows people away.

The slick Training Needs Analysis that The Skills Farm ran uncovered some valuable opportunities for us and some immediate areas for development. We are now embarking on a well designed training plan that will help my team support our clients and meet our objectives. I have been very impressed with Skills Farm and their insights. I would thoroughly recommend them for any organisation wising to improve their client engagement.

Alex HawesCEOAmsys Ltd