Effective Apology: How To Say I Am Sorry

PinExt Effective Apology: How To Say I Am Sorry

sorry Effective Apology: How To Say I Am Sorry 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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

PinExt Effective Apology: How To Say I Am Sorry

6 thoughts on “Effective Apology: How To Say I Am Sorry

  1. Another interesting post and one that should have a lot of people thinking because most of us don’t apologize.

    Not apologizing leads to excess baggage in our life and can haunt us for decades. It leads to dysfunctional behavior that can be the source of such malady’s as drug addiction, alcoholism, pathlogical tendencies and more.

    It’s a very positive move to sit down and think through our lives to discover the actions that we have not apologized for and recreate the facts and see with the eyes of our heart the damage and the hurt that may have transpired from that time.

    Then to get up and physically go to that person and apologize, if still possible. Even further to try and make amends by asking if there is anything you can possibly do to correct the wrong that you personally perpetrated upon that person. It will work wonders!

    I speak from personal experience when I say that it is extremely difficult and hurts to look at ways we have caused pain in someone’s life but after the apology and amends it is life changing. Subconsciously we are relieved beyond words and we then tend to start thinking before we leap!

    Also the other person is relieved and in some cases becomes closer to the person who committed the wrong. Most of the time the person is so happy that you have seen the error of your ways that they don’t need you to physically correct the action in some way or form. They now see you as a person of high standing!

    Jeff I recommend highly that everyone take your post to heart and give a proper apology as soon as they discover the wrong they have committed.

    Very truly a wonderful life changing subject, thanks!

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  2. I absolutely agree that step 5 is really important. Whenever I’ve tried to apologize and said too much, I just end up sounding like I’m not really apologizing!

    Putting yourself out there in an apology is risky. The other person might not accept, or might get angry all over again. It’s really helpful, though, because it takes a lot of burden off of you.

  3. Something I’ve been told by counselors in the past it to never apologize in writing. It gives the offended person something to cling to in the event they just cannot bring themselves to forgive. It also gives others in the offended party’s sphere of influence “proof” that YOU were the wrong party. You never know who will end up with that letter!

    So, like you said, apologize in person. Over the telephone as an absolute last resort.

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  4. An excellent article on how to apologize well. I find that so many people add too much to an apology they make it a defense of their actions again instead of just apologizing and then being quite. The apology is supposed to end it, not continue the problem…. Thanks for the great article!

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