I’m sorry you feel that way

disagreementI am a bit of a business related reality show junkie. My favorite shows are Shark Tank and The Profit. The Profit is a show where Marcus Lemonis, Chairman and CEO of Camping World and Good Sam Enterprises, rescues struggling businesses by investing in them for a share of the company. He then takes over and works his magic to turn the companies around and make a profit.

The latest episode I watched was about SJC Drum Company. The company was struggling to pay the bills due to a disorganized manufacturing process and a long turnaround time to build and deliver the drums. The founders and brothers, Mike and Scott Ciprari, had a feud that ended up pushing Scott out of the business, to the detriment of the company. Besides streamlining the manufacturing process Marcus felt it was important for the brothers to reconcile so that Scott could bring his drum making expertise to the table. His hope was that Scott could help create two less expensive drum lines to add to the inventory. But, the brothers had not spoken in several years. Marcus knew it would be a challenge for Scott and Mike to make amends.

Through his charm and people skills, Marcus was able to convince Scott to come to the company and talk to his brother Mike. It was a tense meeting. Neither of them knew what to say. But through Marcus’ encouragement and prodding they began to open up. Scott was angry about how he had been treated and Mike was defensive. As Scott shared his feelings Mike repeated several times, “I’m sorry you feel that way”, which only escalated Scott’s anger.

Why did the statement “I’m sorry you feel that way” upset Scott? Because while Mike might have felt he was saying he was sorry, he was not taking any responsibility for his actions that led to Scott being upset and hurt. Saying “I’m sorry you feel that way” makes it the other person’s problem and puts the responsibility on them for the disagreement. Marcus recognized this was a blaming statement immediately and pulled Mike aside. He encouraged Mike to take responsibility for his part in the feud.

The next time they spoke and Scott again shared his anger and frustration with how he was treated by Mike, Mike took responsibility for alienating Scott and not including him in decisions. Instead of saying “I’m sorry you feel that way” he said “I’m sorry I did that.” You could instantly see Scott calm down as Mike owned up to his part in the dispute.

Do you see how changing the words slightly to apologize rather than blame makes such a huge difference when resolving a disagreement? If you want to resolve a conflict, whether it’s as small as a disagreement about a project timeline or as large as running a family business both parties must take responsibility for their part in the fight. It’s not easy to own up to what you did to contribute to the problem. It’s much easier to point the finger or shirk responsibility. But if you are open and honest amazing things happen, just as it did for Scott and Mike. Many years of hostility came to an end and Scott was able to help turn the company around.



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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>

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