“When you realize you’ve made a mistake, make amends immediately. It’s easier to eat crow while it’s still warm.” ~Dan Heist
An effective apology can cure many bad situations in relationships. Contrary to what some think, apologizing is not a sign of weakness, but rather a clear sign of strength and confidence. It takes guts to put your ego aside and to humbly apologize for inappropriate actions or comments. In addition, apologizing is often the smartest thing to do. It clears the way for future progress in a relationship. Saying, “I’m sorry”, is often one of the most effective ways of repairing a situation and returning it to a productive state.
Tips to increase the meaningfulness of your apologies.
You want to make every effort to be sure that your apology makes amends for the damage done. There are a number of things to consider to enhance the effectiveness of your apologies. Here are some of the best suggestions I have come across:
1. Offer your apology in a timely manner.
We should offer an apology the moment we realize we have done something to upset someone else. Of course, this isn’t always an easy thing to do. It often takes a little distance before we realize our mistake. However, being as timely as possible will help to minimize the impact of our offense.
2. Be certain that you have control of your emotions.
Usually, when I owe someone an apology it is because my emotions got the better of me. In the heat of the moment, I said or did something that I later regretted. I damaged the relationship and hurt the other person’s feelings with my callousness.
While you want an apology to be timely, you also want to be sure that you have complete control of your emotions before proceeding. You absolutely, positively do not want to let your emotions flare up again when you are apologizing. This can be disastrous, so make sure you are cooled down.
3. Don’t offer an apology until you really feel sorry.
You have to be sincere if you want your apology to mean something. You cannot fake true sincerity. Reflect upon your words or actions and decide exactly what your mistakes were before apologizing. Attempt an apology only after you truly feel sorry for what you did. This will ensure that your body language and other nonverbal cues are in harmony with your verbal message.
4. Whenever possible, make your apology in-person.
A face-to-face apology carries the most weight. This way the other person can better judge your sincerity. When they see that you are truly sorry, they will be more likely to forgive you.
If you absolutely cannot apologize in person, then the next best method is to make a phone call. As a last resort, put your apology in writing, but back this up as soon as possible in-person or over the phone.
5. Fully Admit your guilt.
An effective and meaningful apology includes a full admission of guilt. You have to acknowledge your exact offense. If you are truly sorry, then this shouldn’t be that difficult. Of course, it does require that we swallow our pride and confess our mistake. Accepting full responsibility for our actions is the first step in setting things right.
6. Tell your story of what happened.
You can explain your behavior by simply telling your story. Be completely truthful even if the details aren’t flattering. The more honest and vulnerable you are, the more meaningful your apology will be to the other person. Your story will also help them to see things from your point of view. This can help to trigger their empathy.
7. Say I’m sorry and ask for forgiveness.
Express how sorry you are for the offense and describe your understanding of how this was wrong. Be as specific as possible about what you are sorry about. True remorse for bad actions is usually a prerequisite for quick and complete forgiveness.
8. Offer to take action to repair the damage.
If physical damage occurred, then take responsibility and fix whatever is broken at your cost. Make it better than it was before. When you are apologizing for hurting another’s feelings, then your goal is to restore their dignity. Ask them what would help. Listen carefully to their response and act decisively.
9. Approach the whole situation with complete humility.
You have to go to the person you wronged completely humble. Your apology may fail or even backfire if you go expecting them to reciprocate or admit any guilt themselves. You are taking the first step in repairing the relationship. If this is important enough to you, then you should have already forgiven the person completely before offering your apology.
10. Do not expect them to reciprocate.
Apologizing with the expectation of getting an apology in return is a recipe for disaster. Don’t do it! If you do this right, then you may lower the other person’s defenses enough that they will apologize, but you have to be prepared to let it go if they don’t. The health of the relationship is more important than anything they could say.
11. Don’t apologize too often.
Some people are in the habit of apologizing even when they didn’t really do anything wrong. This dilutes the meaningfulness of apologies. If you are in this habit, then stop it! Some conversations are difficult by nature, but you need not apologize for this.
Never underestimate the power of a good apology
“It takes a great deal of character strength to apologize quickly out of one’s heart rather than out of pity. A person must possess himself and have a deep sense of security in fundamental principles and values in order to genuinely apologize.” ~Stephen Covey
A good apology will go a long way toward fixing a grave mistake in a relationship. You should never underestimate the impact. These suggestions should go along way toward making your apology effective, but even if you don’t get your apology exactly right, most reasonable people will forgive you. They will give you a lot of credit for having the guts to try to make things right again. Why wait? Go apologize!
What suggestions do you have for effective apologies?