Gaining audience forgivement

What’s the best way to ask audiences to forgive an error? Say sorry and admit the error, of course!

Last week I commented on how I had become a non-financial member of a professional association, because the association made it difficult for me to re-join. I hadn’t received a renewal invoice, and was given the impression (via email) that I needed to log onto the association’s website and access the invoice myself. It seemed as though the association expected me to take some effort to renew my membership.

Yesterday I received a letter from the association – a snail mail letter, written on paper (!). It said:

  • Because of an inadvertent technical oversight beginning in January 2011, some members, including you, have not received one or both of the two invoices we send to members about their renewal. We apologise for this error.

The letter went on to say that my membership had been extended until 15 July, to give me time to renew.

The explanation was simple, and my forgiveness immediate. The gesture of extending my membership by a few weeks helped too.

The apology and goodwill gesture not only restored my faith in the association. My impression is now more positive than it was before. So while it’s better not to make mistakes and alienate audiences in the first place, asking for forgiveness can certainly help to rebuild relationships.