Giving Apologies That Work – 4 Steps
When we were children, many of us had the experience of having to apologize for something. This usually meant saying, “I’m sorry,” and then promising not to do it again. So, as an adult, have you ever wondered why that doesn’t seem to work, whether you are receiving or giving them?
For an apology to be meaningful, the person receiving the apology must feel that the one giving an apology really means it and that they understand the impact of their actions. This is a refined communication skill. So, how can you apologize so the other knows you are truly intentional?
1 – Be Specific
The first step is to be specific regarding what you are apologizing for. The more specific and detailed you can be the better. Some of these details are those talked about in the remaining steps as details aren’t just the facts of what happened, but how it happened and why it hurt.
2 – Take Responsibility
It is important to own your part in whatever happened, fully. This means that, although there may have been extenuating circumstances or valid reasons for the behavior, those details will not be mentioned as part of the apology. Avoid using rationalization, excuses, and the word “but.”
3 – Show empathy and understanding
When expressing regret, it is important that the person receiving your apology feels that you have understood what impact the incident had on them, especially emotionally. Try to state your understanding of how the incident affected them. What were the consequences for the other and why was the consequence as hard as it was, what made it so hurtful?
4 – Make amends
Finally, once you’ve recognized a misstep or error, part of a sincere apology is the desire and intention to correct what happened. Sometimes you can do something that changes the outcome, but sometimes it requires a change in future behaviors and situations.
In order to give a meaningful, adult apology, it requires understanding the hurt that was done to the other and this means knowing the other person. This means that an injury can actually lead to a deeper understanding of the other person because it may require that you explore and seek to understand the impact of your actions on that person before you can give a full apology.