We’re human, so we mess up from time to time. Apologies can set things back on the right course, but only if they’re well-communicated. Psychologist and author Guy Winch breaks down the most important ingredients of a good apology so you can make sure you make an effective one.
Here are the five points to cover:
1. A clear ‘I’m sorry’ statement.
2. An expression of regret for what happened.
3. An acknowledgment that social norms or expectations were violated.
4. An empathy statement acknowledging the full impact of our actions on the other person.
This may seem like a lot, and sometimes we don’t want to apologize because it hurts our pride, but so long as you’re going to do it you might as give it your best shot. Sometimes we feel reluctant to apologize and do it quickly so it all can end, but that doesn’t really soothe any of the pain caused or feel genuine. If you’re sorry, mean it. If you skip over the difficult acknowledgments and honest remorse or neglect to make your statement clear, you may as well not apologize at all.
I would also add that a well articulated commitment to an agreed upon method of correcting the behaviour that caused an apology to become necessary is paramount to sincerity of the apology.
An apology doesn’t mean much if there’s no commitment not to reoffend.