How to Apologize

Beyond ‘Sorry’: How to Apologize and Mean It 6 | 22

Kim, Jason, and Amy dive into the complexities of apologies, focusing on the difference between genuine regret and false apologies. Through role-play and insightful analysis, they explore common pitfalls such as deflecting blame, making excuses, and failing to acknowledge the impact of one’s actions.

Listen to the episode:

Episode at a Glance — How to Apologize

Beyond Sorry

Apologizing is a skill that requires more than just the right words—it demands authenticity and a clear understanding of impact versus intent.

The Radical Candor team emphasizes the importance of sincere apologies and provides actionable tips for making amends and fostering better communication in the workplace.

Listen to learn how to transform “I’m sorry” from hollow words into meaningful actions.

Radical Candor Podcast Checklist


  1. To sincerely apologize and have a more thoughtful apology process to this person to whom you’ve caused harm, practice your AAAAAC skills. Five A’s and a C. Be aware, acknowledge what you did wrong, make amends, accept the consequences, apologize, and change. 
  2. Don’t use emotion to avoid accountability. If you’re prone to tears, make sure you and others who are present remain focused on the person harmed. Don’t allow the discomfort that others feel in the face of your tears to cause them to give you a pass when you’re acknowledging what you did wrong. Don’t let it become about you. 
  3. When you’ve hurt someone, rather than focusing on your intentions, take a moment to look for the actual harm your attitude or behavior may have done. If someone is upset, try to understand why rather than reject the other person’s emotions. Remember, an apology is not a substitute for fixing the problem. Apologies repeated over and over without action become an irritation, like throwing salt in the wound. 

The TLDR Radical Candor Podcast Transcript

Radical Candor podcast team

[00:00:00] Kim Scott: Hello, everybody. Welcome to the Radical Candor Podcast. I am Kim Scott. 

[00:00:08] Jason Rosoff: I’m Jason Rosoff. 

[00:00:09] Amy Sandler: And I’m Amy Sandler. And it is so important to know how to apologize. Today we’re going to explore some, quote, apologies that are not apologies at all. For example, I’m an asshole. I was just kidding. Kim, this has been really hard for me. Oh, I’m sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable. Uh, and adjacent to that, I am so sorry you feel that way. 

[00:00:37] Kim Scott: That’s my bugaboo, that one. I hate when people say that. 

[00:00:41] Amy Sandler: Kim, I was having a bad day, let me explain. Forgive me. I don’t think I did that justice, um, but we’ll see. 

[00:00:50] Kim Scott: You did very well. 

[00:00:51] Amy Sandler: Okay.

[00:00:52] Kim Scott: The forgive me, by the way, uh, somebody, I was talking to somebody about this and she said someone had touched her in a way that made her feel uncomfortable. And he blocked the door so she couldn’t get out of the room where they were and said, forgive me. So there’s an especially bad forgive me. 

[00:01:15] Amy Sandler: Oh my, yeah, we’re just, right now we’re just doing the words. We’re not even getting into the, all the other stuff. 

[00:01:20] Kim Scott: Yeah, I couldn’t, sorry. 

[00:01:21] Amy Sandler: So, but luckily Kim, you did a deep dive on this in Radical Respect. So go ahead, get Kim’s new book, Radical Respect, wherever books are sold. But you are in luck because we’re going to give you the shorthand by putting all of these false apologies into one scenario.

[00:01:38] So if you’re listening to this while you’re having a cocktail, a mocktail, go ahead, take a sip every time you hear a false apology. We thought we would kick this off with a little role play and we’ve got two roles here. One is the sorry, not sorry person, uh, who we’re calling here as sorry, not sorry Sam. And, uh, we’ve got patient Pam in the other corner. So, uh, Kim, Jason, are you feeling Not sorry or patient, or both? 

[00:02:10] Jason Rosoff: I can be patient, Pam. 

[00:02:12] Amy Sandler: Alright, I’m not sorry Sam. Alright, uh, well, it looks like it’s starting with not sorry, Sam. Take it away. 

[00:02:21] Kim Scott: Hey Pam, I wanted to talk to you about what happened in the meeting yesterday.

[00:02:26] Jason Rosoff: Hey Sam, sure, what’s up? 

[00:02:28] Kim Scott: Well, I just wanted to say I’m sorry. You know, I’m an asshole for calling you out like that in front of everyone, when you were just trying to help. 

[00:02:37] Jason Rosoff: Um, thanks for saying that, but it still really hurt my feelings. 

[00:02:43] Kim Scott: Yeah, I get it. I was just kidding around, you know? I mean, I didn’t mean for it to come off so harsh. I guess it’s hard to take a joke. 

[00:02:54] Jason Rosoff: It’s hard when they’re not funny. It didn’t feel like you were kidding. It felt like a personal attack. 

[00:02:59] Kim Scott: Look, I know, I know, but this week has been really hard for me. I’m dealing with all the stress of this project and I’ve been on edge. I was being funny, but I guess it just came out in the wrong way.

[00:03:13] Jason Rosoff: Yeah, and I understand you’ve been stressed, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to treat me that way. 

[00:03:17] Kim Scott: I’m sorry if I’ve made you feel uncomfortable. That was not my intention. 

[00:03:23] Jason Rosoff: And I also appreciate that it wasn’t your intention, but that’s how it made me feel. And that’s what matters. 

[00:03:30] Kim Scott: Well, I’m really sorry you felt that way. Let me explain where I was coming from. 

[00:03:35] Jason Rosoff: Sure, go for it. 

[00:03:36] Kim Scott: I was having a bad day, and your suggestion overwhelmed me, so I acted like an infant. Like I said, I’m an asshole. 

[00:03:44] Jason Rosoff: And again, I do understand that. But it’s not okay for you to take out your bad day on me. Um, that’s not an effective way to deal with a tough situation.

[00:03:55] Kim Scott: You are one hundred percent right. Can you forgive me? 

[00:04:00] Jason Rosoff: I think I could, but I need some time to think about this. Honestly, the apology felt a bit insincere to me. 

[00:04:07] Kim Scott: I’m just trying to move on. 

[00:04:09] Amy Sandler: And scene. Speaking of moving on, um, how do our Radical Candor family players feel about that, uh, that exchange. Um, Jason, I thought you were handling it, I think you were very patient as Pam. 

[00:04:23] Jason Rosoff: I was trying to follow the stage direction

[00:04:28] Amy Sandler: You did great I think Pam’s patience might have uh in real life elapsed a few phrases before. But Kim, just because you spent so much time on this, like what is going on with, if you could just almost like a play by play, peel back the tape or kind of debriefing like a football coach, like what is wrong with each of these phrases that you use? We can start with the very first one, which is I’m an asshole. What, tell me about that one. 

[00:04:56] Kim Scott: Yeah. I mean, when I say I’m an asshole, basically what I’m saying is this is who I am, deal with it, you know. I’m not going to change. Basically I’m saying, it’s like saying tough shit. Kind of, to me, anyway. I don’t know, what do you, what do you all think?

[00:05:13] Jason Rosoff: I was wondering if there’s a material difference between saying I’m an asshole and I behaved poorly, I behaved like a jerk, I behaved like an asshole. 

[00:05:23] Kim Scott: Yeah, that’s very different. To say I’m an asshole just means, you know, yes, I did that once and I’m gonna do it again in the future. To me, anyway, like, I behaved like a jerk is a very different thing to say.

[00:05:36] Like, I don’t want to be a jerk. Like, if you say I’m an asshole to me anyway, it’s like, I’m an ass, I’m an asshole and I’m proud of it. And I have no intention of behaving otherwise, but maybe I’m reading too much into it. 

[00:05:49] Amy Sandler: No, I think it aligns with the whole philosophy of Radical Candor of giving core feedback and focusing on the situation, on the behavior, on things that can change. And to your point, if you’re self defined as an asshole, then it’s like, just deal with it and like, it just gives you sort of a get out of jail free card for any other behavior, because I can’t change. 

[00:06:10] Jason Rosoff: And I think what’s interesting about that one to me is that my guess is that a lot of people in the heat of the moment might actually mean I behaved like an asshole, not I am sanguine with the fact that I am a jerk. 

[00:06:24] Amy Sandler: Yup.

[00:06:24] Jason Rosoff: Um, uh, and this is like an example of getting the words right, uh, to make it clear that you, because I think, Kim, the criticism is that when you say it, it doesn’t seem like you believe or care to change the behavior. And I think that’s the risk. If you’re making any kind of apology and the apology comes across in a way, it’s phrased in a way that makes it seem like you’re sort of either okay with the behavior or you don’t plan to change it, then you’ve not made a real apology.

[00:06:59] Kim Scott: Yeah, that’s not, it’s not an apology. I’ll tell you the story when I wrote that, in Radical Respect, one of the things I said that’s not an apology is saying I’m an asshole. And I didn’t write the story that I was thinking of, uh, but I’ll tell it. Do you want to hear it? No. 

[00:07:16] Amy Sandler: Oh, yeah. 

[00:07:17] Kim Scott: Okay, so here’s what happened. We were driving around and around. We were in DC, I think. And we were driving, I’m with my family, and we were, my parents and my siblings, not my husband and my children. And we’re driving around and around and around. And finally, I, there was a parking spot. And there was somebody who’d been waiting for it. And I, my father was driving. I said, Dad, get it. And he got it. So I was an asshole, first of all. Um, and like he zipped in and, 

[00:07:49] Amy Sandler: Acted like, 

[00:07:50] Kim Scott: Yes, uh, I was acting like, and but, I had, maybe I even was, ’cause I thought it was hilarious. And then my, this is true confessions here. These are not my best moment. And then my father got out of the car and the person who’d been waiting, like started walking up to him and my father looked at this guy and he was like, yeah, no, I’m an asshole. And he slammed the door and hit the lock and walked off. 

[00:08:20] And I remember thinking, oh my gosh, like it was, it was like, it was a moment where I was like, really, I’m, I have put my father in the role of being, you know, like I was the jerk. I don’t think he would have done that if I hadn’t egged him on. And second of all, his response to it, like I could tell that what he said, like enraged that person even more which was his point. So anyway, that’s why it’s not an apology to say I mean, that’s what was going on in my brain. 

[00:08:49] Jason Rosoff: Yeah yeah. 

[00:08:52] Amy Sandler: It’s reminding me of the scene in Fried Green Tomatoes if any of you know what I’m talking about where the character um, uh played by Kathy Bates, um, is, has been waiting to get a parking spot and goes around and around and then finally this little car speeds in and she, Kathy Bates is filled with so much rage that she just smashes the car over and over and over again until she finally says something to the effect of like, honey, I’m old, I’m too old and I have too much car insurance, so, I’m not doing it justice. We’ll have to find that clip. 

[00:09:29] Kim Scott: Okay, let’s do it. 

[00:09:30] Amy Sandler: Um, but yes, parking can really inspire, um, assholery, I guess is maybe, uh, the flavor. Let’s move on. 

[00:09:37] Kim Scott: Or not. It could also spark the fundamental attribution error like the, which is sort of what you’re doing when you say I’m an asshole you’re making the fundamental attribution error about yourself. 

[00:09:49] Jason Rosoff: Mm-hmm. 

[00:09:49] Amy Sandler: So let’s get into some of the other examples and why they aren’t apologies, right? So you, we, I was, Kim, I think you were just kidding when you, when you said you’re, you’re an ass. Well, you were just kidding. 

[00:10:03] Kim Scott: Yeah. The reason why that is not an apology is that the point is that it’s a little bit like demanding that the other person have good intentions of you. Like maybe you were kidding, but the pro, that is not, that is irrelevant.

[00:10:19] The problem is that what I said hurt Pam, made it harder for Pam to do her work. And so for me to say I was just kidding is I’m making it now about me. And what I should be doing is making it about acknowledging what I did wrong and making it right for Pam. And I think like in that whole role play my whole goal was to make it right for me. I didn’t really care about Pam. 

[00:10:50] Jason Rosoff: Yeah. It’s all it’s always true that comedy is measured at the receiver’s ear not the speaker’s mouth. 

[00:11:00] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:11:00] Jason Rosoff: So if you’re saying I was just joking, I was just kidding, I was just being funny You know, that’s not a stake you get to claim. 

[00:11:09] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:11:09] Jason Rosoff: The other person has to also think it’s funny. 

[00:11:12] Kim Scott: Yes.

[00:11:13] Amy Sandler: Kim, how often does power weigh in on this of sort of who gets to decide who’s funny and what a joke is? So not only landing at the recipient’s ear, but oh this can’t this person take a joke, etcetera. 

[00:11:26] Kim Scott: Yeah, I mean, humor when it is, so the evolutionary purpose of humor is to help us become more aware. Uh, to help us notice something that we otherwise wouldn’t have noticed. It’s, that’s, uh, at least that’s according to, Uh, Anne Libera, who is a professor of comedy, um, who I met, uh, through Kelly, uh, at Second City.

[00:11:52] Amy Sandler: Kelly Leonard?

[00:11:52] Kim Scott: Yeah. Yes. Uh, Anne is his spouse. So, anyway, it’s ha ha, ah ha. 

[00:11:57] Amy Sandler: Yup. 

[00:11:58] Kim Scott: So the purpose is enlightenment of it, of humor. And also, another important thing to remember about humor is that it should never kick down. If you have power in the situation you should never make fun of someone, if you have more power, you should never make fun of someone who has less power. But if you have less power, it’s okay to make fun of someone who has more power. So, uh, that’s one of the, it’s usually a, it could be risky maybe, but it’s, it doesn’t carry the same wrong, I think. 

[00:12:33] Amy Sandler: I think it’s interesting just to layer that into this conversation when you think about the workplace and how someone’s role and power, either hierarchical or systemic, could play into this. But I gotta say, Kim, this week has been so hard for me. I mean, oh my god, so stressful. Why is that a false apology, just talking about how hard everything is? 

[00:12:52] Kim Scott: Well, I mean, for me at least, I’d love to hear what others think. But I, to me, that’s making it about me again. When I’m like, oh, this is so hard for me. It’s like, I made a mistake, I hurt you, and now I’m asking you to feel sorry for me. And, uh, so it just seems not fair. 

[00:13:11] Amy Sandler: What do you think, Jason, Pam? 

[00:13:13] Jason Rosoff: Well, this whole thing is, I, as we were going through it, I kind of think the roleplay follows the narcissist’s prayer. Are you guys, are you all familiar with that?

[00:13:26] Amy Sandler: No. 

[00:13:26] Kim Scott: No. What is that? 

[00:13:27] Jason Rosoff: So, 

[00:13:29] Amy Sandler: How have I gone this long without knowing this? 

[00:13:31] Jason Rosoff: The narcissist prayer is, that didn’t happen. And if it did, it wasn’t that bad. And if it was, that’s not a big deal. And if it is, that’s not my fault. And if it was, I didn’t mean it. And if I did, you deserved it. 

[00:13:44] Kim Scott: Wow. 

[00:13:45] Amy Sandler: Wow. I think we could just end right there.

[00:13:48] Kim Scott: That is incredible. Don’t be a narcissist when you apologize. It’s the TLDR. 

[00:13:55] Jason Rosoff: Yeah. 

[00:13:56] Kim Scott: That’s a good tip. 

[00:13:57] Jason Rosoff: The whole point of the prayer is to talk about the tactics that people who are trying to make something about themselves usually use to um, to deflect or discredit someone. Because I think what Pam did really well in the script that you wrote, Brandi, is Pam stood their ground, 

[00:14:18] Kim Scott: Yeah.

[00:14:19] Jason Rosoff: At no point did Pam say, I give up and it’s okay, and I’m gonna let you get away with it. Even at the very end, uh, I ad libbed a little bit. I said, look, I think I might be able to forgive you, but I’m not ready to.

[00:14:31] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:14:32] Jason Rosoff: That is the only way to have a chance of counteracting someone who’s trying to make it all about themselves, is to not give the last sort of measure of your power in that situation, uh, which is to acquiesce to the way that they’re paint, the picture that they’re painting of the world.

[00:14:52] Amy Sandler: I think that’s so helpful and as we, in just a little bit, we’ll get into some tips and what good looks like. I think that you, in terms of the standing up for yourself and also at the end, like, give yourself some time. Like, I really appreciated the way you said that, like, I need to figure out why this is, why this felt insincere. There was something else that was going on. And Kim, when you said like, I’m sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable. I’m sorry you feel that way. Like there’s a lot about, again, intention versus impact. So tell us about ascribing, uh, sort of this, I’m sorry about you feel X, Y, and Z. Uh, what’s going on there? 

[00:15:27] Kim Scott: I mean, when somebody says to me, I’m sorry, you feel that way. What I hear is you’re being oversensitive. You shouldn’t feel that way. And it’s not my fault. That’s what I hear. Uh, and I think that’s the problem with, uh, you know, I’m sorry you feel that way, doesn’t acknowledge that you’ve done anything wrong. It’s just like, it’s like saying, don’t be so sensitive, as far as I’m concerned.

[00:15:53] Jason Rosoff: And I think this is another place where a slightly different word choice can have a very different impact. Which is, you could say, it makes me really sad that you feel that way. Like, it, I am, it’s not, I’m not apologizing, uh, because I don’t necessarily know exactly, what I did wrong. But it makes me sad to realize that I made you feel that way or something like that is different than saying I’m sorry you feel that way. 

[00:16:24] Kim Scott: It’s better, I mean it’s I think though you want to try to go back before saying how you feel about their feelings. ‘Cause like there you can get, the feelings thing you can get on this Tacoma state bridge where, I feel terrible, then you feel terrible, and now I can’t pay attention to what I did wrong. You know, like the resonant emotion. So I think better to say, I want to know what I did that made you feel sad, ’cause I don’t want to do it again or something like that. I don’t know, Jason, what do you think? 

[00:16:57] Jason Rosoff: Yeah, I think that’s fine. I guess what I was saying is like the, I do believe that there is power, there’s power in acknowledging the, in acknowledging your, it’s a, I guess it depends on the situation. Again, if there’s like a power differential, I probably would feel differently. But if this was a close relationship, I think there’s power in acknowledging the difference between a defensive response, which is, 

[00:17:29] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:17:29] Jason Rosoff: I’m annoyed you feel that way. And, uh, and another response which is like, oh, it makes me, like, I’m acknowledging, I’m telling you through my own experience, through my own lens, like that, how, that it made me feel badly to, that I had this impact on you. And I think if it’s not paired with, and here’s what I intend to do to change in the future, then you still haven’t apologized. You still haven’t acknowledged your behavior. 

[00:18:00] Kim Scott: Yeah, I’ve thought about this, uh, in terms of white woman’s tears, right? Like, I think the problem, if I say or do something that is, say, biased, and somebody points it out to me, and then I get upset, or I say I’m sad, or worse, you know, I start to cry.

[00:18:19] Now, again, I’m making it about me, rather than, like, I don’t want to, I was talking to Andy about this, we’re taking a walk, and he was in a situation where he did something that he didn’t, you know, he didn’t intend to do anything wrong, but he did something that upset someone else. And he said he tried really hard to respond in a way that showed that he cared, but that didn’t put the other person in the role of comforting him. And I thought that was, I thought that was a good point. So like, I think it’s good to show that you care and sometimes your emotions are how you show you care. Um, but you want to make sure that your, that your emotions then don’t steal the show, that you are focused on them. 

[00:19:09] Jason Rosoff: And I think if it’s easier to remember just not to do it, then that’s better.

[00:19:16] Kim Scott: It’s different things are easier for different folks. 

[00:19:19] Amy Sandler: And I think just acknowledging that if somebody says, you know, this thing you said to me was biased, you know, you’re having an emotional reaction to that is valid. It’s what are you going to do to manage that reaction so that you can show up in a way that’s still taking responsibility for it, whether you need to take some time, etcetera. Kim, is that? 

[00:19:39] Kim Scott: Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s right. I thought a lot about this, about, you know, how to become aware and make amends, what to do when you’ve upset someone or hurt someone or harmed someone in some kind of way. And as I was writing Radical Respect, I read this wonderful book on repentance and repair that goes into great detail about what to do. Because it’s a terrible feeling that to realize that you’ve harmed someone else.

[00:20:08] I mean, I can tell you, when I realize I’ve hurt someone else, I feel like my whole, my stomach drops to my knees and then the backs of my knees start to tingle. Like it, I’m terrified. And so what, you know, what can you do in the moment to respond well? And Danya Ruttenberg, Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, who wrote On Repentance and Repair, uh, went back to the twelfth century to, um, Maimonides.

[00:20:40] And came up with some real wisdom. Like we’ve been hurting each other in this world for a long time. Uh, and there’s some wisdom there. You want me to tell you what Maimonides would say? 

[00:20:52] Amy Sandler: Please. Yeah, I’ve been waiting a thousand years for this.

[00:20:57] Kim Scott: Okay. So, there’s five A’s. First, be aware. And this is really important because very often if someone tells you that you’ve hurt them, or at least if someone tells me that I’ve hurt them, and I didn’t, I wasn’t aware what I did wrong, my first kind of instinct is to say I wasn’t aware, as though that absolves me of any further action. And that’s a problem. So it’s like my obligation to be aware. 

[00:21:27] And when I was reading about this and when I wrote, be aware is the first step. I was thinking of one of the, one of the most chilling incidents of my career. I was having dinner. With an entrepreneur and his daughter. And his daughter was an adult. His daughter had worked for the firm. And his daughter was telling him that she had become so depressed, uh, at one point while working for him, that she had become suicidal. And his response was, I wasn’t aware. And then he moved right on. As though that, like, it was his job as, you know, as a leader, and even more his job as her father, to be aware of what was going on for her.

[00:22:23] So I think taking some personal accountability for our awareness of the impact that we have on others is step number one. What do you think? 

[00:22:32] Amy Sandler: Well, the first thing that’s popping up that story is really powerful is just the value of proactively asking for feedback because we may not be aware and the only way if somebody isn’t presenting that to us is actually actively checking in with people, you know, to see, hey, is there something I could do differently? Or is there something that I’ve said that’s made you uncomfortable or is, or you know, to me it just goes back to the order of operations. Start by asking for feedback because that person might not feel safe. 

[00:23:02] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:23:02] Amy Sandler: To share that unless you’ve sort of given them the opportunity to do so. 

[00:23:07] Kim Scott: Yeah. And sometimes the person may feel it’s not their job to educate you. At what point, at which point you need to educate yourself. Uh. And that may mean asking other people who are in the room, not the person you hurt, but other, you know, other sort of upstanders for that person or just observers of the situation. It may mean doing some research. So taking some accountability to be aware and to educate ourselves about the things we may not be aware of is step number one. So that’s number one. That’s the first of five A’s. 

[00:23:40] The next is to acknowledge your mistake as publicly as possible. I think it is so deeply ingrained in us to hide our mistakes and acknowledging your mistake as publicly as possible does a bunch of things. One, it shows that you know what you did and it helps other people avoid, uh, making the same mistake that you just made by acknowledging it publicly. And it also like, gets you out of the mindset of trying to cover up your mistake. So I think acknowledging your mistake as publicly as possible is really important. And it, this runs counter to, you know, what most PR firms will tell you if you, if you’re a business leader, it runs counter.

[00:24:33] I remember one time I mean, this is different. But I backed into someone, um, you know, I just said, ah, this was totally my fault and we, you know, called the cops and the cops came and I said, I, you know, this was my fault. And I got home and I told Andy what had happened. And he was like, uh, and then I told him what I had said. He’s like, you can’t admit it’s your fault. I’m like, but it was my fault. And that was because of insurance. And, but in the end, like we got to overcome these, there’s all kinds of pressures in the world that, that would have us not acknowledge our mistakes as publicly as possible and push back against those pressures and acknowledge the mistake.

[00:25:16] Amy Sandler: I think that’s so important, especially when you think about leaders showing vulnerability and, you know, don’t admit mistakes and what we see modeled sometimes in the political arena and other spaces. So I think you mentioning that, do you have an example, Kim or Jason, where, um, either you or leaders in organizations you’ve been a part of have done this really well, either in like a team meeting or some other way?

[00:25:38] Kim Scott: I mean, that’s kind of what’s behind Whoops A Daisy is where I, as the leader of the team, stood up and acknowledged some mistake I had made that week and, uh, it was part of every week we did that. 

[00:25:48] Amy Sandler: And you, it was a stuffed animal for folks who aren’t aware of, uh. 

[00:25:51] Kim Scott: Well, it was a stuffed flower, a daisy. 

[00:25:53] Amy Sandler: Okay, gotcha.

[00:25:54] Kim Scott: Or it should have been, yes. There’s a longer story there, but let’s just, suffice it to say, it should have been a stuffed flower. 

[00:26:01] Amy Sandler: Gotcha. Jason, anything, anything on acknowledging mistakes publicly? 

[00:26:05] Jason Rosoff: I think a word of caution. So that people don’t think this is like a recipe that you follow and you like become aware and then you publicly acknowledge your mistake for the simple reason of, if you have not gone through the other steps and the person, like you have to be very careful about the story that you tell because the other person may not feel like you have acknowledged to them the mistake that you’ve made and you’ve tried to like work towards making amends. And so by making it public, it can like reignite the pain of the thing because you actually haven’t fixed the problem. And so that was the only thing that was going through my mind. I feel like I want to make sure that I made it right with the person or people who were most directly affected by the mistake that I made before I announced it publicly.

[00:26:50] Kim Scott: Yeah, you don’t want to write a whole novel about what you did and not tell the person. 

[00:26:56] Jason Rosoff: Yeah, I think it seems obvious, but this is the kind of thing where I feel like it’s good to be specific. 

[00:27:02] Kim Scott: Yes.

[00:27:02] Jason Rosoff: Which is you want to make sure that your acknowledgement is not going to come as a surprise to the person that you harmed.

[00:27:09] Kim Scott: Yeah, and re harm them. 

[00:27:11] Jason Rosoff: Yeah. 

[00:27:11] Kim Scott: Really important, really important. 

[00:27:12] Amy Sandler: Yeah. So Kim, do you want to walk us through the other parts of these A’s and maybe even the order that Jason is referring to, how people might want to think about it? 

[00:27:21] Jason Rosoff: Sure. 

[00:27:21] Kim Scott: So you want to be aware, you want to acknowledge your mistake, uh, as publicly as possible. Again, this was probably meant to happen in a temple in the thirteenth century. 

[00:27:31] Amy Sandler: Yeah. 

[00:27:31] Kim Scott: Um, not on social media. Uh, so, uh, so not, so be aware, acknowledge. Third is accept the consequences. Like, don’t try to, this is part of the problem with all these, like, investigations that really, uh, are just an effort to avoid a lawsuit. So you want to accept the consequences. Make amends, so to make amends, you might have to go beyond the consequences. You might have to offer the person more than, than you would be required to for, to accept the consequences. And only after you’ve done those things, does Maimonides say it’s time to apologize. Um, but apology is not the end. You have to change for good. You can’t, make this, keep making the same mistake and then apologize. Like there are, I’m sure there are people in everyone’s life who make, who, you know, are always late and they’re so apologetic about being late. I’m like, let’s just accept that you’re going to be late and I’m okay with it. And you’re okay with it. What I’m not okay with is this apology that you’re late. You know. 

[00:28:38] Amy Sandler: What’s coming up as you’re going through all this is that apologizing and apologies is not a one off event. It’s an ongoing relationship building modeled by not just the words you’re using, but also the way in which you’re putting it into practice, much like Radical Candor, right? Like if you say you’re going to do this thing and you don’t do it, then that’s not really, 

[00:28:58] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:28:59] Amy Sandler: That’s still the false apology because you didn’t, you know, sort of put your actions where your words were. 

[00:29:04] Kim Scott: Yeah. And I want to acknowledge that often the change is hard and it’s going to take time and you have to extend yourself some grace if you want others to extend some grace. So I, it was a CEO who I worked with who was trying, uh, to change his vocabulary instead of standing up in front of the whole company and saying, you guys, he was trying to stand up and say folks, because half the people, well, a third of the people anyway, in the room, we’re not guys. And this was hard. Uh, you know, it wasn’t like the worst harm he had ever created, but he was really trying to do it.

[00:29:41] And it was very hard. It’s hard to change habits of speech that we’ve had since we were very young. And so it, you know, we all extended him some grace and he, I think he got like those little, you know, rockets or something that, you know, styrofoam rockets, people could shoot at him when he did some sort of accountability. Uh, but you know, so I don’t want this to be so, so heavy, you know, it could be,

[00:30:09] Amy Sandler: And hopefully those were very light rockets. 

[00:30:12] Kim Scott: Yeah, yeah. They’re on a rubber band. 

[00:30:14] Jason Rosoff: Yeah. 

[00:30:14] Kim Scott: Yeah. I love those things. 

[00:30:16] Amy Sandler: Kim, to that point, in terms of, change is hard, like I would love to get an example for folks. Is there an apology that you have used recently or an act of apologizing that you want to share that could be helpful that kind of reinforces these A’s and then the C for change?

[00:30:35] Kim Scott: Yes. I mean, one of the, most poignant examples of an excellent apology is a story that, uh, that, can I read this from Radical Respect? It’s a story from This American life. So, um, the principles are featured in an apology to Lindy West, who was targeted by a troll after her father died. The troll opened a Twitter and Gmail account and Lindy’s deceased father’s name and started sending her cruel messages.

[00:31:08] Rather than ignoring the troll, West wrote about the experience on the website Jezebel and got this response from him. Hey Lindy, I don’t know why or even when I started trolling you. It wasn’t because of your stance on rape jokes. I don’t find them funny either. I think my anger towards you stems from your happiness with your own being. It offended me because it served to highlight my unhappiness with my own self. I have emailed you through two other Gmail accounts just to send you idiotic insults. I apologize for that. I created the account and the Twitter account. I have deleted both. I can’t say sorry enough.

[00:31:57] It was the lowest thing I have ever done. When you included it in your latest Jezebel article, it finally hit me. There’s a living, breathing human being who is reading this shit. I am attacking someone who never harmed me in any way and for no reason whatsoever. I’m done being a troll. Again, I apologize. I made a donation in memory to your dad. I wish you the best. 

[00:32:22] So that is an apology. Uh, it’s more than an apology. 

[00:32:27] Amy Sandler: Yeah. 

[00:32:27] Kim Scott: He did all the things. He was aware of what he did wrong. He acknowledged his mistake as publicly as possible. He accepted the consequences. He made amends. He apologized and he changed. 

[00:32:39] Amy Sandler: I can’t add anything more to that, that was really powerful. 

[00:32:42] Kim Scott: Yeah. Yeah. I read, I mean, it’s like, it’s hard to read it. It almost brings tears to your eyes. 

[00:32:47] Amy Sandler: It is. 

[00:32:48] Kim Scott: Everybody says, like, ignore the trolls and, you know, she didn’t. 

[00:32:52] Amy Sandler: And honestly, I think she saw the humanity in that person. And I think that action as reflected is, you know, the sort of idea that hurt people hurt people. 

[00:33:01] Kim Scott: Yeah.

[00:33:01] Amy Sandler: So I think that it gave that person a chance to access their own, humanity. 

[00:33:06] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:33:06] Amy Sandler: So, all right. Well, with that, uh, let’s get into our checklist so that we can start putting, uh, more, what is the respectful apologies, Kim? What would your respectful apologies into practice? 

[00:33:20] Kim Scott: Or don’t race to apology, I would say, you know. So it’s a respectful apology, but it’s also don’t apologize prematurely. Don’t apologize before you know what you did wrong. 

[00:33:33] Amy Sandler: It’s almost like a thoughtful apology process. 

[00:33:35] Kim Scott: Yeah, exactly. 

[00:33:38] Amy Sandler: Tip number one, to sincerely apologize, to have a more thoughtful apology process to this person to whom you’ve caused harm, practice your AAAAAC skills. We’re calling it AAAAAC? 

[00:33:51] Kim Scott: Yes. Five A’s and a C. 

[00:33:53] Amy Sandler: Five A’s and a C. Be aware, acknowledge what you did wrong, make amends, accept the consequences, apologize, and change. 

[00:34:06] Jason Rosoff: Tip number two, don’t use emotion to avoid accountability. If you’re prone to tears, make sure you and others who are present remain focused on the person harmed. Don’t allow the discomfort that others feel in the face of your tears to cause them to give you a pass when you’re acknowledging what you did wrong. Don’t let it become about you. 

[00:34:24] Kim Scott: Tip number three, when you’ve hurt someone, rather than focusing on your intentions, take a moment to look for the actual harm your attitude or behavior may have done. If someone is upset, try to understand why rather than to reject the other person’s emotions. Remember, an apology is not a substitute for fixing the problem. Apologies repeated over and over without action become an irritation, like throwing salt in the wound. 

[00:34:54] Amy Sandler: For more tips, to see the show notes for this episode, go over to Praise in public, criticize in private, and if you like what you hear, please do rate and review us wherever you’re listening. If you’ve got criticism for us, email it, We love to hear it. We read every one. Finally, don’t forget to order Radical Respect. It’s available everywhere books are sold. Bye for now. 

[00:35:23] Kim Scott: Bye, everyone. 

[00:35:24] Jason Rosoff: Take care. 

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The Radical Candor Podcast is based on the book Radical Candor: Be A Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott.

Radical Candor podcast

Episodes are written and produced by Brandi Neal with script editing by Amy Sandler. The show features Radical Candor co-founders Kim Scott and Jason Rosoff and is hosted by Amy Sandler. Nick Carissimi is our audio engineer.

The Radical Candor Podcast theme music was composed by Cliff Goldmacher. Order his book: The Reason For The Rhymes: Mastering the Seven Essential Skills of Innovation by Learning to Write Songs.

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