I have had a lot of practice with apologies over the years. It seems I have a propensity to say or do the wrong thing. Therefore, making an effective apology is important to me.
I want to be able to get my relationships back on track when I do something that hurts a loved one’s feelings. I have studied how to say I’m sorry a bit in order to get it right so, I thought I’d share a few thoughts about making an effective apology.
A simple, but effective apology
I believe a short and simple apology is often the most effective. In fact, when we ramble on, we take the risk of offending the person further. We could easily say something that additionally complicates the situation. Here’s my recommendation:
<Person’s name>, I’m sorry that I <state very specifically what you are apologizing for>. Will you forgive me? <stop talking>
Let me break down the parts of this apology a little to explain why it is effective.
- Leading off with the person’s name - This gets their attention. Nothing attracts someone’s attention like hearing their name. It also lets them know that this apology is specifically and especially for them.
- I’m sorry that I – This is a short phrase that packs a lot of wallop. Every word has a purpose. Right after getting the person’s attention, you say I’m sorry to let them know from the beginning that you are apologizing. This will help them feel safe enough to listen. The next two words, that I, communicates that you are taking responsibility for your actions. Very important!
- State very specifically what you are sorry for – This is the meat, but it does not need to be lengthy. In fact, I would encourage brevity. If you want your apology to be accepted, then you must come 100% clean. Do not beat around the bush or try to dodge any blame. State as clearly as you can the exact and specific thing you said or did that upset the person.
- Will you forgive me? – Ask for what you want. In the case of an apology, we want forgiveness. In most cases, if we admit our crime and seem genuinely sorry, then most reasonable people are going to forgive us at this point. By asking, we simply help them get there.
- Stop talking – This is very important. There is really nothing more that needs to be said in an apology. However, it seems that shutting up is one of the hardest things for us to do. So let me emphasize that continuing to talk is like walking blindfolded along the edge of a treacherous cliff! Don’t do it!
A few other pointers for making an effective apology
Here are a few other things that I would suggest when saying sorry:
- Be sincere – Do not start an apology until you really mean it. The person will detect your insincerity if you don’t come to them with a humble attitude.
- Look them in the eye – Let them search your eyes and know that you are being genuine. Look them straight in the eye as you say the suggested apology above.
- Apologize in private – Pull the person aside and render your apology in private. This reduces the pressure and distractions. If a public apology is needed, then you can do this later.
- Apologize in person – Go to the person to apologize whenever possible. Don’t ask them to come to you. Don’t apologize over the phone or via e-mail unless a face-to-face meeting is impossible.
- Watch your body language – A lot of communication is non-verbal. Be careful what you say with your body. If you are truly sorry, then this will likely take care of itself.
- Don’t delay – Apologize sooner rather than later! If emotions are high, then wait until things have cooled off, but don’t wait too long. You don’t want ill feelings to fester.
An effective apology will preserve a relationship
I am so thankful for apologies! They have helped me to save many relationships over the years. I have received a lot of forgiveness by simply offering an effective apology. If you are reading this, then it is likely that you feel like you need to apologize to someone. What are you waiting for? Use these suggestions and you will be making up before you know it!
What tips would you suggest for making an effective apology?
Photo by Half Chinese