Persuade by orchestrating apologies

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Orchestrating apologies

How to persuade others by orchestrating apologies?

How to you persuade others by orchestrating apologies? Persuasion is the process of changing minds. Persuasion is an everyday part of human discourse. It is used by salesmen, parents, teachers, and many others – basically all of us. Persuasion in mediation is a two-way street. Long before you try to influence another to moderate their demands or consider the other side’s point of view, chances are good that they will have tried to convince you to their position.

It’s my experience in order to be an effective mediator, I must engage in various forms of persuasion. I do not engage in coercive or manipulative persuasion practices by which pressure brought to bear on reluctant participants to get a settlement. I do use a range of potential mediator interventions to help the parties resolve deeply held or competitively bargained differences. *

Orchestrating Apologies

Since most of my mediations are with parties that have on going relationships such as construction, business, and technology, I spend considerable time orchestrating apologies. In a business relationship reconciliation is necessary. To contradict the theme of the Godfather , “it is always personal and not strictly business”.

The time to orchestrate apologies can take several hours of effort. It is negotiation in itself. We need to find out what the offence is exactly. What form will the apology take? Who will apologize to whom? This includes who will be in the room when the apology is given. How much time will be allowed to deliver the apology and any response? And more importantly will the apology be accepted?

Once the time and effort is expended to orchestrate and deliver an apology, solutions to the problem often quickly come into focus. Often the amount in controversy drops quickly and precipitously.


Apologies are more effective for a single transgression than for a series of transgression over time. But, in the event of a damaged relationship, there is tremendous potential for reconciliation and resolution of the conflict.

The effect of mere expressions of sympathy was dependent on the context. I avoid allowing this to happen. The punitive transgressor needs to know that they did wrong, what they did wrong and why it was wrong. Otherwise the other party could be offended and then dig in to their position if not deepen their position.

Full elaborate apologies are more effective that less elaborate ones. I spend effort setting the stage for the apology. It encourages reconciliation if both parties know what is going to happen.

The more serious the transgression or the greater the harm, the more elaborate the apology must be. This should be self evident. Sometimes, it is necessary to put the apology in writing and include it in the settlement agreement. Since the settlement agreement is usually confidential, there is no loss of face even if it is in writing.

Partial apologies can be unproductive or even counterproductive in the effects on the recipient. I do not encourage or allow partial apologies to take place. I’ve had the misfortune to have very good settlement blow up before they were signed because of a off-handed apology.

In case of less serious injuries less clear culpability or both, any apology even if complete may be better than none. Putting it simply, apologize for what you know you did wrong. Do not under any circumstances apologize for something you are not convinced was wrong. It is not a matter of assuming liability but the other party will not be convinced of your sincerity.

Full settlement apologies push plaintiff’s lawyers in a generally opposite direction. An apology executed correctly has a tendency to low the demands from the other side. If a plaintiff is on a contingence fee agreement, that will lower their pay day.

Why they work

Apologies helping disputants separate past (regrettable) acts from essential (positive) selfhood may be a highly effective form of self-persuasion. Apologies help resolve cognitive dissonance- dissonance effects are strongest (and self persuasion greatest) when actions are inconsistent with self concept of being a good person.


A successful apology requires skill and expertise. This can’t be emphasized enough. I spend considerable time testing the feasibility of an apology. I will even review it with the opposition before it is delivered.

How they work

If party accepts responsibility for causing injury to the other party, then the offended party makes more positive character related attribution towards the offender. Also, because of the regret, it changes assumptions about future behavior and expectations for the future relationship.

Apologies decrease anger towards the offender and increase sympathy for offender’s perspective especially if offender accepted full responsibility.

Presence or absence of apology affects on offenders parties ‘bottom line’ in legal negotiations well as the parties aspirations and opinion about what constitutes a fair settlement.

Recipients of apology reported less need to punish the other and greater willingness to forgive that those who did not receive apology.

Insincere apologies may actually cause people to react negatively.

*Stark, James H. and Frenkel, Douglas N., Changing Minds: The Work of Mediators and Empirical Studies of Persuasion (2013). Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution, Vol. 28, No. 2, Pg. 263, 2013; U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 11-07

For an experienced Mediator to help negotiate a resolution to your dispute contact Ken Strongman. Here.

**Why the picture of Cross Country runners?  It takes a lot of persuasion to get them to the finish line. 

 Ken Strongman, MediatorAbout the Author: Ken Strongman, is a private commercial mediator/arbitrator of complex, high risk litigated cases since 2004. Disputes addressed include business, securities, construction defects, real estate, intellectual property, employment, environment, energy, and trusts & estates. He is also a Mediator and Arbitrator for FINRA.

© 2020 Ken Strongman. All Rights Reserved. Please do not copy or repost without permission.



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