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Beer Mergers Limited is an independent, specialist corporate advisory firm, a "boutique" operation focusing specifically on sales and acquisitions in the small business sector.

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Business Discussions and Conversations


Following on from our last blog, we take a further look at a different angle on communication, specifically conversations and discussions, both internal and external.

Sometimes discussions simply don’t go well, and sometimes we simply get conversations wrong. It’s very easy to unwittingly paint either ourselves or the other party into a corner, from which it can be hard to move forward without retracting what’s been said, or indeed simply apologising. And apologising can certainly be very difficult, getting it wrong often just exacerbates the situation. Here are a few tips.

Use ‘I’ Sentences

Apologising means taking on full responsibility for something. Say it like it is, for example “I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings”.  According to empirical research, a person is most likely to forgive and forget if you admit full responsibility.

Don’t justify your actions

It’s a natural reflex to try and justify your own actions, but not a good one, because a justification is in effect a denial of the apology.  Most effective is simply an explanation and an admission of guilt combined.

Avoid “but” sentences

An apology in which the work “but” crops up is almost never understood as an apology but as an excuse.  Avoid at all costs.

Don’t ask for forgiveness

Asking for forgiveness is rarely effective.  According to research, spare yourself the bother, as nobody likes to grant absolution. Just move on.

Change yourself

Even the most honest apology is worthless if you repeat the same mistake several times.  Making an apology is above all a commitment to making a change and an offer to make amends.

Non-Violent Communication

In summary, psychologists generally agree that conflicts need to be dealt with, but the question is how?  The American psychologist Marshall B Rosenberg developed the idea of “nonviolent communication” based on the premise that it’s not what you say, but how you say it. There appears to be some truth in that, as long we don’t allow ourselves to indulge in aggressive language, which can only lead to counter-aggression or submissive subjugation.

But why is all this so difficult to do?  Often, we ourselves are the problem.  Take the so-called “attribution error”. If we arrive too late, there was a lot of traffic.  If others arrive late, they set off too late. We are by nature prone to pass judgement, and it’s always easier to blame someone else than to think about why something happened. Avoiding this is the key acknowledge needs and take them seriously, and express clear objectives,for example “Please tell me what you need, so we can talk about it”.

Posted on by Mike Halls

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