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When you pick the wrong colour

Authenticity. . . the currency of the Future

By 05/06/2009January 26th, 201725 Comments

‘We know it when we see it, and we love the people who live it—the ones we can count on, always, to be brazenly, exhilaratingly themselves.  In the age of spin and truthiness, authenticity is the real deal: speaking up for what you believe in, refusing to be ruled by the desire for acceptance, listening for the difference between the impulses that move you and the fear that holds you back. 
Authenticity is funny, it’s provocative, it slices through the bull.  In it’s company, you’re inspired to be truer to yourself.’  O’s Big Book of Happiness.

Image source

Lately I’ve been intrigued that this conversation about authenticity is such a hot topic.   In the courses that I took with Landmark (see previous post on what it is here) we learned that the foundation of  communication is being authentic.  This education has been teaching ‘authenticity’ for years, it’s not a new concept there.  
I like what Seth Godin said in his post about it; Authenticity, for me, is doing what you promise, not “being who you are”. Seth Godin

Then I found an even better real-life example of what it is today reading Dan Schawbel’s  blog where he interviewed John Kador who is the author of a book called Effective Apology.   In this interview, John discusses how executives can earn more money by apologizing.  

“The first thing that authenticity requires—and why the willingness to apologize is such a critical path to harnessing one’s true self—is a commitment to face the facts.
One of those facts is that we all make mistakes. When we do, we have a choice. We can confront the truth about our imperfection and apologize, or we can deny, defend, and stonewall. When we acknowledge the facts—including those that make us look bad—we are on the road to authenticity.”

The survey (in the above post) confirmed that customers who are willing to say “I’m sorry” earned more money—nearly twice as much—as those who rarely or never apologize. Stated another way, customers who earned more than $100,000 a year were twice as likely to apologize after an argument or mistake as those earning $25,000 or less.
It turns out that a customer’s willingness to apologize is a perfect predictor of their place on the income ladder. In addition, the relationships of those who apologize tend to be better (or at least longer-lasting) than of those who resist apology.

What does this look like for me in the design world? 
Anytime I have breakdown–really anywhere in my life—but especially with a client on a job, I can immediately see where I’m responsible.  I’m  lucky that these types of breakdowns don’t happen very often because I am extremely detail oriented (which you have to be in this business) however, last year I was supervising a drapery installation and as soon as they went up,  I could see that they were too green!  They were supposed to be a butterscotch colour and they went up looking more greeny gold (the drapes below are the right colour, the lighting–must have taken it with the flash– still makes them look a bit more gold instead of butterscotch but you can see what I mean). 
They were up for about 30 seconds before I said “I’ll be replacing those drapes!” 

It’s funny, when I had brought the original sample over (her sofa and wall colour were existing, I was just there to pick out drapery fabric) I held up the small, 5” x 7” sample and thought “that looks like it has a green undertone but it’ll be alright?”

Alright?  There is no such thing as close enough in the colour world?  It either works or it doesn’t!!  And of course, I would never try to pass off something that didn’t work anyways, because it’s my reputation that’s on the line! 

So, my lovelies. . . how quick are you to apologize when you are wrong?  I’m doing a poll.

Related posts:
What to do before you get Fired from your Corporate Job
Happiness is. . . being Uncomfortable (when you pick the wrong colour)

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  • Awesome Sara says:

    Apologize ASAP!!! People respond to it, they like it when the mistake is acknowledged and they get over it faster. I can’t wait for your tag. bring it on!

  • guylaine rondeau says:

    hey maria…!
    great quote from the o book of happiness!
    love the bike too…

    as for apologizing, if i screw up i’m the first one to admit it.
    and as you well know, us canadian we apologize for everything… 🙂

  • Joe says:

    I always like to quote John 8:32 – “…the truth will set you free…” and it’s true!

  • GardenDesigner says:

    “I never apologize because I am never wrong!! ……….”
    JUST KIDDING! I am quoting someone very close to me, and His arrogance shows!
    Great Post, and a good reminder when working with clients!
    My goal for the week is to really shut my mouth… And LISTEN! to what the client is looking for!
    On another note:
    My Son sent me this link to this”color site”, and I thought of you right away… Have fun!

  • Renae says:

    Being sorry – truly sorry is shown by our actions not just lip service. Words are good and we should apologize when we are wrong, but true repentance is reflected in our actions and how we go about remedying a situation.
    Great post!

  • Anonymous says:

    Hello Maria,

    When you have time, you may wish to read "Emotional Intelligence" by Daniel Coleman which was written a while back but looks at what is intelligence. In essence, if a person can master his emotions, he is more likely to be successful. Apologizing takes humbleness and self-confidence, to admit a wrong-doing as well as seeing a solution or right course of action. Merely admitting a mistake, i.e, knowing you hurt someone or something went wrong is not enough. I read the book (as it was a gift from my mom) and have found it incredibly useful (and continue to refer to it) many years later. Hope that many read your post and learn (& practice) it. – KBN

  • Karena says:

    Hi Maria, I love this post, so poignant and true. I am so sorry and Thank yu so much, magical words to those that hear them. Often it is unexpected and so it makes the phrase even more meaningful. Renee is right in saying that follow up with actions, especially in a close relationship, is the real test! A great lesson to teach children when they are young!

  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Anonymous,
    I have read Goleman’s book (correct sp) and I will weave a conversation about emotional intelligence in another post! I understand that the higher you are in an organization the higher level of emotional intelligence you must have in order to succeed, which he talks about in his other book Primal Leadership.

    And obviously action is a huge part of an apology, words are meaningless otherwise.

    Well said everyone so far, thank you for your contribution! I love your comments!


  • VictoriaArt says:

    I always apologize when I see something went wrong, thank goodness is happens rarely since I do work very close with clients, take them through the process ect, but it happens and we all make mistakes ones in a while.
    I believe trust is the key idea as well, sometimes a color looks only right when everything else has been put together!

  • Michele says:

    I love the Oprah quote and I agree with you. I too have had occasions when a window treatment either was ordered incorrectly (by me) or the manufacturer sent it wrong. Regardless, of who is at fault, i do everything in my power to make it right for the client. I’ve found that most times, when a client knows you are going to bat for them to make it right, they appreciate you even more! There are a lot of moving parts to a project and mistakes can be made but how you handle them reflects on who you are as a designer and a person. An apology for the inconvenience is a great place to start.

  • DesignTies says:

    I ALWAYS apologize if I make a mistake. And I always make sure to put the blame on somebody else when it’s not my fault 😉

    But seriously — I have real guilt issues, so I have to apologize as soon as I can or else I agonize over it endlessly. Most people accept an apology graciously — after all, everybody makes mistakes. Unfortunately, I’ve come across a few people who are never happy no matter how much you apologize and try to rectify the situation. I have no time for people like that.

    So my answer to your question is, I always apologize and do it as soon as I can 🙂


  • Michelle says:

    I hate those types of situations, and just want it to be right in the end; personally or professionally. Laughter is always the best medicine. Also, years of waitressing made it ok for me to say it’s my fault…the tips went up!!


  • Geopology Designs says:

    If I make a mistake I will apoligize immediately. What bugs me is people who know they made a mistake but won’t apoligize or even acknowledge the mistake.

  • Bethany says:

    This topic reminds me of a Penelope Truck post about authenticity being more important to the new generation then credentials. It makes sense with all the new social media – people trust you more – the more authentic you are. OK I am murdering it – hope you read it too. PS> thanks for your input on my pictures I was really hoping you would comment.

  • Under a Green Roof says:

    I love the pink bike!

    I always try to apologize right away, before time passes and things start to seem worse.

    Great post! thanks for sharing!

  • Kelee Katillac says:

    I can’t sleep if it isn’t right. Make it right! Good question Maria!

  • Velvet and Linen says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Maria.
    As you know, I had a challenging week last week, but I always tell my clients that if something goes wrong I’ll fix it. I have learned that it is important to listen to my clients concerns without getting defensive. Being authentic is the key.


  • Fifi Flowers says:

    I always apologize!

  • Brillante Home Decor says:

    I used to apologize even when not needed, now I do it only when I make a mistake and it is worth it! A short story: a friend of mine had back surgery recently and when still at the hospital the surgeon said to her he made a wrong decision (not a mistake though)and she should have another back surgery right away…believe it or not she was very happy to go under surgery again and she really appreciated his honesty.
    Authenticity pays everytime.

  • sallymandy says:

    What a wonderful question and discussion. That’s why I love your blog, Maria. It’s so much more than surface-deep!

    As I get older I want to apologize as fast as I can. Because it just feels icky not to. I used to think apologizing was for the other person, but it’s equally for me because it frees me up.

    What an interesting study about apologizing and earning level.

  • ~ Patricia Gray ~ says:

    Accepting responsibility for when you are wrong is a good sign of emotional maturity. We all make mistakes that is just part of being human. I would add to Seth’s quotation: ‘Authenticity, for me, is doing what you promise, not “being who you are”.’….I think that Authenticity is who you are at the deepest level of your being.
    Good thought provoking post Maria!

  • Things That Inspire says:

    Very interesting. I personally have a hard time apologizing, but I do always accept responsibility when I am in the wrong. Maybe I have a hard time accepting when I am in the wrong!

    One of the things I love the most about my husband, both in business and at home, is that he ALWAYS owns it when he is wrong, and with his boss, he even takes responsibility for things that were not directly his fault, yet in his role, he should have caught it.

    The last time I had window treatments made for my home, my designer used a less expensive seamstress at my request. The seamstress did a fine job in the living room, but must have measured completely wrong in the entryway (two windows). My designer completely owned the mistake, said I’ll take care of it, and the next week arrived with the correct window treatment sizes. It was a pleasure to work with her, and I am sure I would not have felt the same way had she forced me to pay for the mistake.

  • John Kador says:

    I appreciate this post about apology and authenticity. As the author of the book you mentioned, I am constantly being asked for evidence that apology really makes a difference and that it will not be used against the apologizer. I reply that there are no guarantees. Authenticty in this world comes with risks. Apology, also, is not cost-free. Everything I’ve learned suggests that apology is less costly than the alternatives of denial, cover-up, and stonewalling. So it is with authenticity. I mentioned your post in the News section of my web site Keep up the good work.

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  • Dovecote Decor says:

    I should be making a fortune, I have perfected the art of the grovel, and it involves my sincere desire to maintain my relationships–what else do we have in this life? Great post!

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