We are hiring, bringing the requisite meetings with people to find the one that is a good fit.. Earlier this week, we had breakfast with one such candidate. He was really nice and had a good skill set but it wasn’t a match with what we were looking for.
After the breakfast, he sent a couple nice follow up emails – one to the CEO and then one more broadly to all of us that were there. He went back to several questions and reiterated some points. Overall, it was a great follow-up, but about 3/4 of the way through his email he put in a paragraph that apologized for spitting out his food twice during breakfast.
Even though I hadn’t noticed at all, I now how the pleasure of imagining him spitting out his food. I pulled the others, and only one noticed it once, but didn’t think much of it. None were in the slightest offended or even considered it, but by bringing attention to it, we all simulated picturing him spitting out his food.
When your actions clearly cause offense, it can be good to apologize preemptively, but if the person wasn’t offended, apologizing can actually create offense. The problem of course, is that we notice the things we wish we did differently or said differently upon further reflection, and we project our perception on others.
This same thing applies as much when you are trying to convince someone of a point and, instead of simply presenting your case, you preemptively begin to respond to arguments that haven’t been said yet. In this situation, you provide the person you are trying to convince more information about why they shouldn’t be.
For example, if you really believe a product could help someone and you are trying to help them see that, you don’t want to launch into why previous problems have been resolved and won’t happen again. It adds doubt rather than helps them to be convinced. Moreover, don’t apologize for things that may have gone unnoticed.
And remember, apologizing for farting during the sales call is never the best follow up. 🙂