How to Give an Apology
So you’re in the dog house and in need of the perfect apology? We’ve got just the list to help you say “I’m Sorry” in a big, meaningful way. Think of the following steps as your building blocks to a sincere and well-thought out apology that needs every step to work. It will end up being the greatest “I’m Sorry Gift” you could give!
Understanding the problem is the key element in starting an effective apology. This step will help you prepare for how to handle the situation and give you a chance to be reflective of your actions. You cannot be sorry or feel remorse for something you don't understand. Figure out what the problem is and the role you played in it. From there you can formulate your apology based on how you made the other person feel. If you don't think you've done anything wrong or have been taken out of context, it is still in good fashion to show remorse for how your actions affected another person. Even though you see nothing wrong in the situation, you should apologize for the unintended effects (you don't want to lose out on another person to write "Happy Birthday" on your Facebook wall each year).No matter what your apology, leave out all notions of right and wrong. Both options are completely irrelevant in an apology and rather serve as excuses and places for both parties to dwell.
Before the actual apology, take responsibility for your role in creating the problem. After the first step of "understanding the problem" you should be able to determine which part of the situation is yours to own. This will probably be the hardest step for anyone, but the most productive. Do not make an excuse that would absolve you. This makes for an incomplete apology and implies that you have nothing to take responsibility for. An excuse can even be seen as an insult.
Taking responsibility in a proper apology shows that you see the other person's concern or trouble as valid, which will help you to both reach an understanding.
Choose your words carefully
In a perfect world, "I'm sorry" would be all that is needed to resolve any problem. However, not all of us have birds dress us in the morning or a team of writers at our disposal for when we need to declare ourselves. Saying "I'm sorry" requires a lot more thought?and a few more words. An apology should reflect your understanding and responsibility in the problem (see the building block method here?). Start your apology with an explanation of the situation, what you understand from it, and the role you take responsibility for.
Always avoid using words like "but" or "if" in your apology. Despite popular belief among repeat offenders, saying "I'm sorry, but?" is not actually an apology; it's a prelude to an excuse and you should know by now how we all feel about excuses! Just the same, do not say that you are sorry about their feelings. You need to be sorry about how your actions produced those feelings.
You've said you were sorry, you've taken responsibility, and you understand the problem, but what are you going to do about all of that? An apology is great for immediate problems, but is the equivalent of putting a band aid on a broken bone. Have a plan in place to resolve the root of the problem and what you plan to do to fix it. Discuss together about what the right course of action should be and how you will work together to get there.
If you followed the previous steps, we think it would be safe enough to come out of that bunker and ask for forgiveness. If you truly learned from your mistake and have demonstrated this, a request for an apology will be a piece of cake (some of us choose to take this literally!). The injured party will appreciate the chance to have some power over the situation, and be more amicable to your request.
Of course, you should always be patient and understanding of their answer. Even if you followed our flawless steps, an apology may not always be accepted. However, you should always thank them for hearing your side and give them the space they need.
You didn't think we would set up the steps for a perfect apology (including cake!) and not expect you to follow through on your end, did you? If you sincerely mean your apology, then you need to keep up your end of the bargain when you made amends. This is your chance to prove your word and self. By not following through on your resolutions, you discredit yourself and actions in the future, and we don't have a list for that yet!
We can't tell you exactly what to say (mostly because we weren't there to witness!) but we can point you in the right direction. Below are some sample apology phrases to help you on your path to the perfect apology.
• I'm sorry for hurting your feelings
• It was my fault that this happened, I'm sorry
• I shouldn't have done that, I'm sorry and I hope you can forgive me
• Please forgive my inconsideration, I'm very sorry
• I'm to blame and I want to fix this
• I was wrong and I'm sorry
• I'm sorry for this and I hope you will forgive me, but I respect your decision if you don't
• You were right, I'm sorry
• I take full responsibility and I'm deeply sorry
• Please accept my deepest remorse for my actions
• I messed up and I will fix it