The Robert Scoble Brand just increased in value. That boost came through Scoble's apology about defending the Chinese MSN word blocker.
Apology or mea culpa has become the totally disarming way to achieve everything from enhancing brand identity to retaining customers. At least in blogosphere. Actually, before citizen journalism, turnaround expert Lee Iacocca used the mea culpa tactic brilliantly.
In establishment life, where mostly I earn my living as a communications strategist/content provider, apology remains an underused power tool. Most of my clients, even when wrong, hesitate to do a mea culpa. Why the resistance?
To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, the establishment is different from you and I. Its rules of decorum and business were put together on a WASP platform of reserve, understatement, superiority, and conviction in its way as being the preferred mode of civilized behavior.
Okay, sociologists and experts on the competition from China have declared the WASP Way anachronism. Even old-line WASPS I encounter at old-line cocktail parties (the kind John Cheever described so well) admit that that ethos is fading.
But there's always a lag between what was and what is. It will take a while for the establishment to realize that its way has become downright self-defeating. Anecdote: Yesterday I interviewed for a contract position a WASP Ivy League graduate. He could only sell his pedigree, not himself. You know how that story ends.
How can non-apologizers explore using mea culpa as a power tool?
1. Just observe. When anyone makes a sincere apology, we listen. I landed an assignment in the mega competitive hospitality industry by recognizing that even the most unhappy guest will be turned around by an authentic and detailed apology.
2. Give up on the cult of the self. Did it ever work? That's open to debate. But in an interconnected, volatile global economy, who can go it alone? That's why eastern philosophy of no-self is catching on rapidly. If we aren't defending the self, apology comes naturally.
3. Decide if we want to be right /appear to be right or be successful? Surrendering on this one is the necessary inner paradigm shift that makes apology possible.
4. Ignore the lawyers, initially. We can apologize in ways that won't invite legal action or strengthen the case of the opposition. After we make a decision to do a mea culpa, then we should listen to the lawyers.
5. In low-stakes transactions, try out apologizing. When we get the other's attention out there, we know we're doing it right.
Full Disclosure: For 19 months I've been apologizing, hopefully appropriately. My life became a whole lot easier to transact. My business moved to the next level, both in revenue and what kinds of clients it attracts. I learned the art of the mea culpa from poring over eastern thought made accessible in magazines such as TRICYCLE and WHAT IS ENLIGHTENMENT and films like "What the Bleep ..."