Sorry

Have you ever annoyed a potential customer, or made her angry? Before you decide to ignore the faux pas and press forward with the pitch, or write her off and move on to greener pastures, try this simple technique: say, “I’m sorry.” That’s likely instinctive behavior for many of us, but at times it may seem easier to call no further attention to your words or action that aggravated the prospect. Doing nothing is the wrong call, research shows.

In The Upside of Irrationality, Dan Ariely describes an experiment he conducted to gauge the change in behavior for people who had been treated rudely. The setup involved “hiring” coffee shop customers to perform a simple task for $5, and then (apparently accidentally) overpaying them. Some subjects were subjected to rude behavior by the experimenter, who appeared to take an unimportant cell phone call in the middle of explaining the task. The subjects who experienced the rude behavior were much more likely to pocket the overpayment.

Ariely then tweaked the experiment by repeating it but having the experimenter add a simple apology, stating, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have taken that call.” The apology completely offset the effects of the rude behavior. The subjects who experienced the rude behavior but then got the apology were just as likely to return the overpayment as the control group.

The neuromarketing takeaway is that apologies really do work. Of course, “sorry” may not completely negate the effects of major failures or even repeated small ones. But Ariely’s work does show that for one aggravating incident, an apology is the perfect remedy. So, don’t let your miscue slide – suck it up, and apologize!

Amazon Link: The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home
Kindle Link: The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home

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