The Six (and a Half) Steps to an Effective Apology (2023)

If you can't remember the last time you apologized, congratulations, you're perfect, or at least you think you are. For the rest of us, apologizing is a common, if difficult, part of life.

One of the first lessons children learn is the art of apologizing, but these skills don't always carry over into adulthood. Relationships are complicated and both parties often have some level of guilt. However, the biggest obstacle to apologetic happiness is not a complicated argument: it is self-protective motivations.

Good excuses are notoriously hard to come by, in part because of the inherent reluctance to make them. People are reluctant to apologize because they mistakenly believe it affects others' perceptions, he says.Amy Ebesu Hubbard, professor at the Manoa School of Communication and Information at the University of Hawaii. Some see an apology as an acknowledgment of defeat and therefore a lowering of their social status; others feel it tarnishes their reputation. On the other hand, a successful apology can bring people closer together and improve the apology's standing with the recipient, says Hubbard.

There are a number of other psychological barriers that keep people from apologizing.Carina Schumann, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. Chief among them is the desire to see oneself as a good person and to be seen by others as morally righteous. When someone is mad at you, it's common to go into self-protective mode and tell yourself that you didn't do anything wrong. “A lot of times people don't apologize just because these self-defense processes kick in and they find all kinds of reasons why they shouldn't apologize,” says Schumann. “They blame the other person, they make excuses, all the circumstantial factors that led them to behave that way.” Another impediment to apologizing can be a lack of empathy or concern for the relationship with the injured party.

Effectively apologizing boils down to a few simple steps that can be easily replicated and adapted to countless situations, from accidentally bumping into a stranger in a crowded bar to insulting your best friend's life choices. However, the key to a successful apology isn't following a formula: it's true sincerity.

The six (and a half) components of a good apology

According to Marjorie Ingall and Susan McCarthy, the authors of the bookSorry, Sorry, Sorry: The Case for Good Apologies, successful apologies consist of six (and a half) components:

  1. Say you're sorry or apologize. Do you actually use the words "I'm sorry" or "I apologize".
  2. Name or specify the offense you are apologizing for.
  3. Show that you understand why your actions were hurtful and hurtful and the impact they had on the other person.
  4. Don't apologize, but provide an explanation if necessary.
  5. Share what you are doing to make sure this situation doesn't happen again.
  6. Offer to fix what's broken, whether it's buying your aunt a new lamp you knocked off the table at Thanksgiving or offering to spend time with a friend who feels neglected.

The middle step is to listen to the person or people (these steps work if you are apologizing to a person or group) that you have offended. It's about their experiences and emotions, not yours.

"They're listed in order of importance," says McCarthy. This is not to say that listening is any less important, but sometimes the hurt person may not want to extend the conversation beyond an apology.

Each component can be adapted to the seriousness of the apology. You don't have to explain what you're doing to get better after accidentally stealing your neighbor's trash can. But you have to show that you understand why it's not healthy to hit the wall in anger.

(Video) How To Apologize Effectively | 6 (And A Half) Essential Tips

Saying the words "I'm sorry" or "I apologize" are non-negotiable in any decent apology, big or small. Avoid terms like "I'm sorry" or "I feel really bad about what happened".

For serious violations, be specific about what you're apologizing for and what you're apologizing for.because it was wronghelps you take responsibility. Be specific and use active language. Think, "I'm sorry that I accused your sister of stealing money. I got upset about making judgmental assumptions." instead of "I'm sorry for the events that led to your confusion" or the other jargon one is likely to encounter.mercado,youtuber, and the Sorry Notes app. "If you dropped a glass of water, you don't have to explain it to that person," says McCarthy. "But in most cases it's very good to specify it."

Even if you're not sure why someone is mad at you but you know they are, apologize as much as you can, says Hubbard; This might sound like, "I can see you're mad at me and I'm sorry I hurt you." Partial apologies also apply to situations where you are asked to apologize even if you feel your actions were justified. Ingall recalls a time when her son was asked to apologize for yelling at another student after a bully teased him. "I felt like Max was 100% the victim and just reacting," says Ingall. "We found that Max could say, 'Sorry, I'm interrupting class.'

Explaining why you acted the way you did can add important context, says Schumann. Victims of wrongdoing often see the wrongdoing as intentional, unfair, and deliberate.according to the search results. Malefactors, on the other hand, tend to view their actions as provoked and justified. A non-defensive account of your motives can help the person you are apologizing to to see that you did not act maliciously. Schumann suggests saying something like, "I want you to know why my behavior has been the way it has been the last few weeks, just to help you understand where it's coming from. This is not an excuse and I should have done better." to make excuses, insists Ingall. In their book, Ingall and McCarthy write that "I didn't want to," "I missed a few things," or "I knew you'd never understand" are common excuses.

Describe in detail how you will never commit the same offense again: 'Next time I'll put a reminder on my phone so I don't forget', 'I won't use that language again', 'I'm going to therapy'. It's not enough to say, "I take responsibility for my actions." How will you take responsibility?

While it doesn't apply to all situations, making amends for wrongdoing can be like offering to buy a new white rug after spilling red wine on it, or publicly correcting a history of embarrassing statements you've made about a friend.

These intense and personal apologies are for researchers.yohsuke ohtsubo calls "expensive excuses' where the wrongdoer is willing to do whatever it takes to repair the relationship. Victims perceive these apologies as more sincere because they know that "you value the relationship with them more than the cost you pay," says Ohtsubo, a professor at the University of Tokyo, "which also tells you that you probably won't." the same transgression again.” The “cost” involved has less to do with monetary value and instead focuses on the value of the relationship.

What not to do with an apology

There are some hallmarks of a bad apology. Ingall and McCarthy suggest using phrases such as "I'm sorry if..." ("I'm sorry if you were offended"), "I'm sorry, but..." ("I'm sorry, but I had every right to yell"), and "I , I feel...". ("I'm sorry you misunderstood.") Also, don't use words like "obvious", "unfortunate" and "unfortunate".

Any statement that blames the recipient is a lame excuse. "It's quite normal that we also want to point out how we get hurt," Schumann says, "because these things are often unclear about who hurt who." If you feel you should apologize as well, save that for a separate conversation.

(Video) The best way to apologize (according to science)

By apologizing, you acknowledge that your words and actions caused pain, so don't minimize the other person's pain to appease your ego. "It was just a joke," "I didn't mean it like that," or "I don't know why it was so important" are sure to make the other person feel worse, says Schumann.

When and how to apologize

Your sincerity is more important than the timing and means of your apology, says Hubbard. If you're not ready to apologize and you mean it, you can apologize multiple times, says Hubbard: once to clear the air of any discomfort, and later, when you really feel remorse.

Don't worry about where the apology is in the conversation; instead, focus on being genuine and empathetic. FORfrequently cited studythey found that apologies were most effective after the aggrieved party had a chance to express their feelings. One ofHubbard Studiesshowed that starting a conversation with an apology can be a stepping stone to a deeper conversation. Every time you apologize, be prepared for all kinds of emotions and listen (or for the other person to shut down completely).

In general, the most sincere apologies are made in person or over the phone. The other person can hear your voice and tone of voice and read your body language. Text apologies can be used if this is how you normally interact with the person you hurt. Social media messages can be an effective way to apologize to someone from your past that you don't communicate with in person or see in person. Mass apologies on social media should be avoided at all costs.

"It's much healthier to communicate with your friends that you've really hurt in your real human voice and say, 'I'm so sorry, I love you, I miss you. Can we talk about this?'" says Ingall. "You'll find this to be infinitely more satisfying than the Notes app's apology that, according to B-T, everyone ends up screwing up anyway."

When not to apologize

There are seemingly endless situations that call for an apology, plenty of ways to screw up, piss off or offend people, but some circumstances where nothing needs to change. women and girls who arefamous slanderedforExcuse me FrequentlyHe should stop apologizing for the apology, says Ingall. “We have to be very careful not to control the woman's speech too much and not say that the way she speaks, whether it's about frying pan, emphasis at the end of the sentence or apology, is wrong,” she says. . Because sometimes there are things we have to do to get through the day and make life easier."

Never apologize for existing, making space and living your authentic self. This is the version of forgiveness worth fighting for.

"It's appropriate to apologize for things you do or say," says McCarthy. "You don't have to apologize for who you are."

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