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Oops! What to Say After You Have Made a Major Gaffe

Words to UseWords to Use When Acknowledging a Mistake

What a gaffe. You write a report for a client or a department head. The report is filled with clear-cut statements of what needs to happen next to meet upcoming goals, with the outcome based on your expert opinion. Unfortunately your prediction turns out to be dead wrong.

You are embarrassed. You realize it's time to do damage control. But how? What are the best words to use when acknowledging a mistake?

Here are some excellent phrases to use:

  • I'm sorry for the inaccuracy in the report.
  • Thank you for letting me know about the problem with that report. I am embarrassed about how this could happen.
  • I checked the report several times, so I was really embarrassed and SURPRISED by the mistake.
  • I apologize for the error(s) in the report. I was diligent about double-checking the information and getting feedback from others.

Notice in the phrases the word "but" is never used. Avoid the "yeah but" routine whenever possible as it reinforces your disagreement with the situation.

Redemption is important after the acknowledgment of a mistake. Offer something to compensate for the error. Provide the client a service at no cost. Demonstrate how you checked your methodology to ensure the mistake won't happen again.

Always correct the mistake whenever possible.

Source: Perfect Phrases for Dealing with Difficult Situations at Work - Susan F. Benjamin

Attorney Coaching


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