“I’m sorry” are two of the most powerful words across our shared human languages. Understanding why you’re sorry is only half the solution. Knowing how to apologise properly is the other.
How to apologise appropriately and why
We were all taught from a very young age that when you do something wrong to another, you need to apologise. In preschool, if you hurt someone, you were told to apologise for it. But all that does is reinforce the surface level of what you have to do in order to obtain forgiveness is say you’re sorry. There is more, internally, that needs to happen if you want to sincerely apologise, and you have to express more than just your apologies. Here we look into how to apologise appropriately, and why.
It’s important to know how to apologise properly when you hurt someone’s feelings Source: Unsplash/YolandaSun
The 7 stages of a clear and sincere apology
1. Understand why you’re sorry.
Before you say a word you ought to know exactly why you’re sorry. You need to understand what it is that you did or said and empathise with the other person. Understanding why you’re sorry is step one. Without this part of the apology clear in your mind, you can’t truly apologise.
2. Say you’re sorry.
As we said in the title, “I’m sorry,” are two of the most powerful words you can utter. Expressing that you are sorry is among the most important things you can do when you’ve wronged another. It is an admission that you understand you made a mistake. However, these are only words you should say if you’re genuinely sorry. To apologise for something about which you’re not actually sorry diminishes both the words you say and your character.
3. Show that you understand why you are sorry.
While it is important to say that you are sorry, it’s not enough on its own. In order to apologise as explicitly as your disrespect was, you need to state clearly that you understand why you are sorry. Spell it out. Talk about your actions and how it impacted them. Showing that you understand how you made the other person feel is absolutely vital for validating any apology.
4. Talk about what you’ve learned.
When we make mistakes and are making a good faith effort to correct those mistakes, there should be something you can learn. Mistakes, especially ones that hurt other people, provide us with important, life lessons. When you apologise, it’s not just to save your own reputation, but to rebuild trust between you and the injured party. Can the other person really trust you if they don’t know that you learned something? Talk about what it is that you are taking away from the mistake you made.
5. Acknowledge that you understand the consequences.
Another important part of any apology should be an outward acknowledgement that you understand that there will be consequences, possibly tougher consequences, should you make the same mistake again. The other party can’t fully trust you in future if you don’t understand that repeating that mistake again will have repercussions. These repercussions are a deterrent from acting the way you did again. Ensure they know that you know.
6. List the ways you’ll change.
This part can be simple and brief and ties in with point 5. Talking about the measures you’ll take to avoid the same mistake again in the future lets the other person know that you are fully committed to righting your wrongs and working hard to be better in the future.
7. Ask for forgiveness.
The final step in the process of clearly apologising is to specifically ask the other party to forgive you. If they don’t, repeat any of the above steps until you know what needs to happen to earn that forgiveness.
Apologising isn’t always going to be easy, but if your relationship with the offended party matters to you, you’ll apologise fully, and clearly—clear enough to match your earlier disrespect.
Extra Tip: Apologise as soon as possible and don’t offer excuses During an apology, many people are tempted to explain their actions. This can be helpful, but explanations can often serve as excuses, and these can weaken your apology. Don’t shift part of the blame onto someone or something else in an attempt to reduce responsibility. Source: Unsplash/LinkedInSalesNavigator
Why Apologise – The Consequences of Not Apologising – Why Apologies Are Difficult – No Excuses
There are a host of good reasons why you should make a sincere apology when you’ve hurt someone unnecessarily, or have made a mistake.
- An apology opens a dialogue between yourself and the other person. Your willingness to admit your mistake can give the other person the opportunity they need to communicate with you, and start dealing with their feelings.
- When you apologise, you also acknowledge that you engaged in unacceptable behavior. This helps you rebuild trust and re-establish your relationship with the other person. It also gives you an opportunity to discuss what is and isn’t acceptable.
- When you admit that the situation was your fault, you restore dignity to the person you hurt. This can begin the healing process, and it can ensure that she doesn’t unjustly blame herself for what happened.
- A sincere apology shows that you’re taking responsibility for your actions. This can strengthen your self-confidence, self-respect, and reputation. You’re also likely to feel a sense of relief when you come clean about your actions, and it’s one of the best ways to restore your integrity in the eyes of others.
The Consequences of Not Apologising
What are the consequences if you don’t apologise when you’ve made a mistake?
- You will damage your relationships with colleagues, clients, friends, or family. It can harm your reputation, limit your career opportunities, and lower your effectiveness – and, others may not want to work with you.
- It can negatively impact your team (in a work environment) when you don’t apologise. No one wants to work for a boss who can’t own up to his mistakes, and who doesn’t apologise for them. The animosity, tension, and pain that comes with this can create a toxic work environment.
Why Apologies Are Difficult
With all these potential negative consequences, why do some people still refuse to apologise?
Apologies take courage. When you admit that you were wrong, it puts you in a vulnerable position, which can open you up to attack or blame. Some people struggle to show this courage.
On the other hand, you may be so full of shame and embarrassment over your actions that you can’t bring yourself to face the other person.
Or, you may be following the advice “never apologise, never explain.” It’s up to you if you want to be this arrogant, but, if you do, don’t expect to be seen as a wise or an inspiring leader in the workplace.
Finally, Don’t Offer Excuses
During an apology, many people are tempted to explain their actions. This can be helpful, but explanations can often serve as excuses, and these can weaken your apology. Don’t shift part of the blame onto someone or something else in an attempt to reduce responsibility.
Here is an example of using excuses in an apology: “I’m sorry that I snapped at you when you came into my office yesterday. I had a lot on my plate, and my boss demanded my project report an hour earlier than planned.” In this case, you excuse your behaviour because of stress, and you imply that the other person was at fault because he bothered you on a busy day. This makes you look weak. A better approach is to say, “I’m sorry I snapped at you yesterday.” This is short and heartfelt, and it offers no excuses for your behaviour.
Apologies are difficult but the consequences of not apologising are dire Apologies take courage. When you admit that you were wrong, it puts you in a vulnerable position. However, not apologising can I have repercussions on your reputation and standing among friends and colleagues. Be upfront with a heartfelt apology and hopefully you can smooth over the waters and minimise the damage. Source: Unsplash/Charles
This article was originally posted on June 13, 2019