We all make mistakes. When you try to repair the damage, do you make the situation better or worse? We’ve all been raised to say “ I’m sorry ” after hurting someone through our words or actions, but is your apology disingenuous or a meaningful expression of regret? What are the ingredients of an effective apology?
An apology shouldn’t be a knee-jerk reaction acknowledging that you hurt someone. An apology should be a statement of remorse with an explicit promise that it won’t happen again. That means more than going through the motions of saying “I’m sorry” — your words must be authentic and coupled with a real desire to change.
A Sorry Apology Can Add Insult to Injury
If you can’t make it better, don’t make it worse. While people may be angry or disappointed by the offense, it pales in comparison to an insincere apology. Here are 11 common mistakes people make when they apologize:
Apology by text or email. Are you kidding? Make the effort to apologize in person, if at all possible. It helps to hear the tone of voice and read body language.
Forced into an apology. An apology should be a voluntary acknowledgment of responsibility. You should not have to be coerced into making it.
Taking the easy way out. An apology should be heartfelt — not just an attempt to smooth ruffled feathers.
Hollow words. An apology should be a sincere expression of regret. But words are meaningless if they’re not supported with action.
Face reality. An apology should fit the “crime.” Saying “I’m sorry” may not be enough to make things right. You may have to go further to make amends.
Poor timing. An apology should be made as soon as the act occurs rather than letting too much time elapse.
Lack of commitment. An apology should represent a willingness and an obligation to make things right.
Recurring offense. Every effort should be made to repair and not repeat the offense. Otherwise, your apology is worthless.
Make excuses or rationalize behavior. When you offer an apology, be sincere. Don’t say, “I’m sorry, but…” You’re either sorry or you’re not.
Expect forgiveness. When you offer an apology, don’t expect instant understanding and absolution. Be patient.
Quick fix. Saying “I’m sorry” is great, but that doesn’t mean everything will be back to normal right away. The healing process may take some time.
How Much Is Your Apology Worth?
When you say “I’m sorry,” you imply that you notice, you care, and most of all, you promise it won’t happen again. As such, an apology is more than just a statement of contrition; you’re putting your honor on the line. If you repeat the act again, you’re indicating that you were more interested in creating peace than in changing your ways. You’re also demonstrating that your promise isn’t worth anything. If you care about preserving your relationship as well as your dignity, keep your word. If you don’t, you will be forced to accept the consequences. As someone once said, “When you’ve done something wrong, admit it, and be sorry. No one in history has ever choked to death from swallowing his pride.” The part they overlooked is that words without action are meaningless. Never say “I’m sorry” unless you mean it.
How Much Is Your Apology Worth?
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