Tips For Apologizing Effectively
Everyone’s experienced an apology handled poorly. Those insincere, half-hearted, “”doing it for all the wrong reasons”” type apologies we often see from CEO’s and politicians.
Husbands and wives around the world have also learned to master poor-quality apologies just for the sake of apologizing to end an argument quickly. But if you’re like most people, you can quickly tell (and feel) if an apology is heartfelt and sincere, or shallow, insincere, and overall low quality.
In this article we’ll explore expert analysis, opinions, and the latest science behind human behavior when it comes to connecting to your audience with a heartfelt (sincere) apology.
Let’s Dive In.
Know When to Apologize (and when NOT to apologize)
There are plenty of good reasons to apologize and a few good reasons why you probably shouldn’t apologize.
5 Reasons Why You Should (probably) Apologize.
1. Apologize To Repair a Relationship
A damaged relationship, especially to someone close, can feel similar to illness for both parties.
According to couples therapist Dr. Gary Brown, when apologizing you may need to make amends and offer to repair the relationship. Apologizing helps put a conflict behind you and allows all parties to move forward much more easily. By apologizing it can act as a ‘spark’ to mend a bruised relationship and reopen the lines of communication.
2. Apologize To Re-Built Trust
In 2019 researchers published a study in the medical journal “Frontiers in Psychology” which found a scientifically proven connection showing “that an apology can effectively improve perceptions of the transgressor’s trustworthiness and trusting behaviors.”
When Should You Re-Build Trust
- If you’ve broken a rule of social conduct
- If you want to show that you are capable of taking responsibility your our actions
- If you want let people know you’re not proud of your action and that people can trust that you won’t repeat the same mistake.
- If you didn’t keep a commitment
3. Apologize To Show Empathy Towards Others’ Feelings
Apologizing shows that you care about the other person’s feelings. By apologizing to someone you’ve hurt, you then validate their feelings. This is important for re-building trust, mending the relationship, and for the other person’s emotional sanity.
- Apologize If you hurt someone by teasing, even if you didn’t mean it.
- Apologize If you lose or break something that belonged to someone else.
- By apologizing to another person you allow you apology ton ease their anger
4. Apologize To Restore Social Order
If your mistake in on a large scale then it may cause social unrest (politicians, public figures, CEO’s)
A true heartfelt and sincere apology can resolve conflicts and restore social harmony. A poor apology, one that is not heartfelt, can make things worse and spread social unrest.
5. Apologize To Help Restore Your Personal Reputation
- Apologizing can help heal internal personal shame.
- Apologizing can help your mental health, especially if you did something you knew was wrong.
- Apologizing will help ease your guilt and anxiety.
13 Reasons NOT To Apologize
1. You Don’t Need To Apologize All The Time.
According to Jay Rai , an Empowerment Psychologist, “Over-apologizing is a common symptom amongst individuals with low self-esteem and those who fear of what others think.”
If you apologize too much for ‘little things’ then you’re watering down the impact of future apologies. And you’re showing signs of being a timid, fragile personality.
Also, Psychotherapist Beverly Engel, by over-apologizing you may think that you’re displaying yourself as a “nice and caring person”, but what you’re actually doing is sending a message that you lack confidence.
2. You Don’t Need To Apologize When You’re Asking To Talk In A Group.
3. When You Don’t Know Exactly Why You’re Apologizing
4. Don’t Apologize If You Are Genuinely Not Sorry
5. Don’t Apologize For Loving Someone
6. Don’t Apologize For Following A Dream
7. Don’t Apologize For Ending A Toxic Relationship
8. Don’t Apologize For High Expectations
9. Don’t Apologize For Bad Dancing
10. Don’t Apologize For Telling The Truth
How Preparing For An Apology Can Make A Difference
Don’t script your apology, let it come from the heart. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare some of the details.
1. Prepare To Listen To The Other Person.
Best selling author and family therapist Dr. Dan Neuharth says that an authentic apology starts with listening. If you seek to apologize, you first need to hear what happened from the other person’s point of view and how it affected them.
Apologizing is not about a one-way conversation. Apologizing is more about listening, accepting responsibility, and coming to terms.
2. Find The Right Time & Place to Apologize.
Don’t ambush the person you’re apologizing to. Find a time that you know will work for both of you. And make sure you have enough time to have a complete conversation.
You don’t want to rush when you apologize. And you don’t want to rush who you are apologizing to either.
And try not to apologize in public. A public apology makes the apology about you. The more private the conversation, the more empathetic and sincere the apology comes across.
3. Always Apologize In Person. (But If You Can’t Don’t Wait)
According to MIT social scientist Sherry Turkle when compared to texting an apology, a face-to-face apology lends itself to greater effectiveness and genuine empathy development.
While speaking with Glamor, Sherry says that while texting an apology isn’t necessarily toxic, but overtime it does strip away your ability to strengthen empathy. Apologizing in personal will always come across as more sincere and more heartfelt.
If for whatever reason, you can’t apologize in person, “Face-timing” can work in a bind, but acknowledge that you understand that an in-persona apology would have been better.
4. Give Up The Idea of Being “Right.”
According to the Harvard Business Review, needing to be right is harmful, in a relationship, and harmful in a business, because it can prevent the honest and productive sharing of information and opinions.
5. Be Prepared to Avoid Justifying Your Actions.
Writer and psychologist. Dr. Suzanne Phillips describes “justifying your actions” as a natural defense mechanism against feeling badly about ourselves by convincing ourselves that what we did was the best thing we could do.
When apologizing its always best to take full responsibility and never justify poor behavior. “I was only a jerk because”… the rest doesn’t matter.
Take FULL responsibility.
6. Write A Hand Written Note To Give After The Apology
Always apologize in person, Yes. But writing down your apology is not “in place of” a face-to-face apology, its “in addition to” the face-to-face apology.
If you want your apology to really ‘hit home’, then apologize in-persona, but ALSO write an apology note. The added effort will be greatly appreciated by the recipient.
7 Key Elements Of A Perfect Apology
You don’t want the tone of your apology to miss-the-mark. The goal of apologizing is to express empathy, admit fault, admit your ability to learn from your mistakes, and re-connect to whoever you are apologizing to.
1. Take Full Responsibility
Bestselling author and psychotherapist Amy Morin writes that it’s best to acknowledge that you made a mistake. And make it clear that you’re at fault.
Amy says “never apologize for someone else’s feelings” but to still take full “responsibility for your behavior.”
For example, rather than saying, “I’m sorry if you were hurt by my words,” instead say, “I’m sorry I said hurtful things.” The second version takes on more accountability.
You have to let the other person know that you understand the harm you may have caused them. Whether you meant harm or not.
2. State How You Will Repair The Situation.
According to Berkley University Author Dr. Christine Carter, great apologies include a reparation of some kind, either real or symbolic. It’s not enough to just apologize and move on. You have to make the situation right.
Apologizing is good, but talk is talk. Often an apology needs to be back up with future action. Make sure you communicate on how you plan to improve your behavior or remedy the situation.
3. Drop Your Defenses
Don’t get all defensive or make excuses. It can feel natural to get defensive or feel like you’re “getting attacked”.
According to psychology experts those who are high in narcissistic traits, low in self-esteem, or concerned with how they are viewed by others are more likely to get defensive in an apology.
Take responsibility with-out getting defensive.
4. Keep It Real. Show Empathy. Be Authentic.
People can see through an inauthentic apology. If you give a “corporate apology” it will not resonate with your audience. You need to be authentic.
According to TED Talk Alumni and criminal defense attorney Jahan Kalantar, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and authentic, because the power of any message lies in how honest it is.
5. Use Open And Use Humble Body Language.
Don’t cross your arms or look up at the sky while you’re apologizing. Crossed arms is a closed off body posture and subconsciously signals mixed feeling of insecurity and inauthenticity.
You want to come across open and humble as equals human being.
Don’t tower over who you’re apologizing to. Don’t overthink your body language. As long as you’re apologizing authentically from the heart your body language will match.
Also in another article we wrote – Here’s How To Read Unspoken Body Language & Micro-Expressions (Vibes)
6. Give Them Time To Talk.
Apologizing is not all about you. Give the other side time to tell their side, their opinions, and display their feelings. Don’t be dismissive of their talking points.
According to psychology author and writer Dr. John Amodeo, listening to a person’s feelings is a great starting place for repairing trust and sorting things out during an apology.
After The Apology: The Repair Process
Just because you apologized, that doesn’t mean the conflict is resolved. Sometimes an apology needs some time to ‘soak in’.
Sometimes it takes days, weeks or years depending on the situation.
Be patient, and don’t over compensate by being overly nice as this often comes across as insincere.
Stick To Your Word.
If you promised action or change as part of your apology, then you better stick to your word. If you fail to act as part of your apology, then you will be remembered for such and your apology is voided.
How to Know If Your Apology Was Accepted
Understanding how your apology was received is far from an exact science. It’s more intuition or just feeling the ‘vibe‘ you get from the other person.
Usually you’ll know for sure if your apology went well or very bad. More complex apologies usually land somewhere in the middle.
Be patient and sometimes if you just don’t get the feel that your apology was accepted, then try apologizing again. Often, after some reflection, we realize that we may not have apologized as well as we wanted to or it wasn’t received as well as we wanted it to.
If that’s the case, calmly reflect on what went wrong and try again.
What NOT To Say When Apologizing
“I’m sorry you’re upset.”
Translation: I don’t like it that you’re mad at me.
“I’m Sorry, But…” or “I know, I just …”
Translation: That’s not an apology its a justification
“Yeah, well, sometimes you …”
Translation: Deflecting and another justification. Also escalating
“I don’t want to fight about this!”
Translation: No-one “wants” to fight. This puts the other person in defense
5. “I’m not perfect.”
Translation: We all know that no-ones perfect. Don’t make excuses, just take responsibility
Final Thoughts: Apologizing According to Experts
As human beings we all make mistakes. That what humans do. We’re imperfect.
But being imperfect and making as many mistakes as we humans do it’s important that we learn to apologize effectively to continue building the strength of the relationships around us.
Ultimately, apologizing should be heartfelt and come naturally.
You shouldn’t have to overthink it you just have to mean it. But even if you do mean it, it’s important to convey your feeling of remorse effectively.
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