Apologies are tricky… they’re hard to get right. That’s because most of us are uncomfortable admitting we’ve made a mistake. We don’t like feeling guilty for hurting someone when we didn’t intend any harm. In fact, very few of us mean to hurt others, but stuff happens anyway and some of it we could have prevented.Apologies are tricky... they’re hard to get right. Click To Tweet
During an apology, people have a tendency to blame others for a lousy situation. We want them to “grow a thicker skin,” to “not be so sensitive,” to “get over it,” to “forgive and forget.” All these phrases are designed to make ourselves feel better, not the aggrieved person. As a result, our apology becomes what is commonly known as a “non-apology apology,” which often makes things worse.During an apology, people have a tendency to blame others for a lousy situation Click To Tweet
A non-apology apology is defined as “an expression of contrition,” but one that lacks the appropriate feeling of genuine regret and empathy for another’s pain. You’ll often hear politicians, movie stars, and athletes making non-apology apologies after they’ve screwed up and put their careers at risk.
The non-apology apologist will say some of the right things like, “I’m sorry,” and “it was a mistake.” But they’ll also use weasel-words, such as “I’m sorry if what I said hurt you,” or “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I’m sorry to anyone I might have offended.” These weasel-words shift responsibility for the hurt from the apologizer to the aggrieved person.Weasel-words shift responsibility for the hurt from the apologizer to the aggrieved person. Click To Tweet
If you truly want to apologize and open the door to being forgiven, you have to make a “full apology.” You have to own your mistake and not blame anyone else or make excuses. You have to show genuine empathy, explaining that you know exactly why they were hurt by what you did and that you know that they are truly hurting. You have to ask for forgiveness, not demand it. You have to promise to never engage in the hurtful behavior again and to propose ways to make it up to them. And, you have to do all these things honestly and sincerely, expressing genuine regret, in person, making appropriate eye contact, without being defensive, especially if they say angry or hurtful things back to you.If you truly want to apologize and open the door to being forgiven, you have to make a full… Click To Tweet You have to own your mistake and not blame anyone else or make excuses. Click To Tweet
Here are the seven steps to making a “full apology” and some suggested words you can use:
- Admit it. “I said/did _____, and I know I hurt you/caused you harm.”
- Describe how it hurt them. “What I said/did hurt you because it ________.”
- Make no excuses. “There are no excuses for what I did/said and no one else is to blame. This is my responsibility.”
- Apologize sincerely; ask for forgiveness. “I sincerely apologize and I ask for your forgiveness.”
- Promise: never again. “I will never say/do anything like this to you or others ever again.”
- Offer to make amends. “I’d like to make this up to you by doing the following _________.”
- Start making amends. (Even if they forgive you, or say it’s not necessary to make amends.)
No doubt about it, making a full apology is tough. But if you do it right, with sincerity, 9 times out of 10 your apology will be accepted, you’ll be genuinely forgiven, healing will start, and relationships will improve. These are positive results that make a full apology worth doing.
The Respectful Leader: Seven Ways To Influence Without Intimidation was launched on August 1, 2016.
Leadership & Ethics Advisor, Gregg Ward, is the author of the new book, The Respectful Leader: Seven Ways To Influence Without Intimidation, and specializes in the areas of respect and etiquette. A Certified Management Consultant and Adjunct Professor for San Diego State and Cal State, Gregg trained the U.S. NAVY on issues of conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, and teamwork.