The DON'Ts of Apologizing
This is our list of secondary
considerations (a quick reference guide) for extending that perfect apology.
Since we have already covered what you should do, this page will focus on what NOT to do when you find yourself in the
position of having to say sorry.
The DON'Ts of a Perfect Apology
- Don't forget to do everything listed on the
DOs Page and elsewhere on the PA site.
- Don't demand forgiveness and don't expect itno matter how much time you've spent preparing the apology.
- Don't try to evoke sympathy for yourself as part of the apology.
- Never assume the issue is minor. Err on the side of accepting the importance and seriousness of the mistake. Assuming this is a big deal to the other person when in fact it really isn't, is a much better place to be than the alternative.
- When preparing an verbal apology be sure to avoid any actions that could mistakenly be interpreted as insinceritybad jokes, rolling your eyes, avoiding eye contact, excessive shuffling or nervous twitching.
- Avoid apologizing for the wrong mistake, just because that mistake is easier to fix or forgive. This approach could backfire, because it fails to satisfy any of the key ingredients of an effective apology and implies the mistake will likely happen again.
- Don't simply describe or explain the offence and assume it will be sufficientthat doesn't constitute an apology and will likely make things worse by insulting the person's intelligence.
- Don't demand a response to your apologybe patient and wait.
- Don't constantly ask the other person why they are madassume there's a reason. If they are forced to clarify why they are hurt then you obviously don't get it.
- If you get an apology, don't use that as an opportunity to offer a few excuses.
- Avoid ALL qualifiers and hidden messages that might imply sharing responsibility for the problem/mistakeNEVER share the blame.
- NEVER use the word BUT when giving an apology.
- Don't expand the apology by linking it to ANY other issues aside from the apology and issue/offence at hand.
- Don't take the easy way out with a simple "I'm sorry"a well crafted and well timed apology will work much better, so don't risk it.
- Don't apologize MONTHS or years after the incident.
From one of our website visitors: You said "Don't apologize months or years after the offense". I think that needs clarification. I would suggest:
"Offer your apology in a timely manner, and do not leave the injured party to stew over what you've done." and "If it has been months or years since a serious offense,
then it is better to offer your sincere apology late, than never."
FYI: I can still recall an apology I received from an ex-boyfriend about 25 years ago. I just
happened to run into him in a restaurant, when I hadn't seen him for at least 6 years. He spontaneously delivered a sincere apology, and apparently had thought about
his desire to apologize to me long before that date. The apology resolved some issues for me, about things that I had been blaming on myself, and which, he explained,
were really about stuff going on with him. It meant a LOT to me. I can think of many other apologies that could be offered years later, and would still be life-changing.
- Don't screw up againmake sure you convey a clear commitment to correct the offence and that you're prepared to suffer the consequences of changing the behavior.
- NEVER start an apology with the words, "I don' know what I've done wrong, but..." Figure out what you've done wrong; make sure you get it right; and move on to crafting the perfect apology to fix it.
- NEVER follow the rejection of an apology with the words, "I said I was sorry what else do you want?" They probably want a lot more, so please refer back to the ingredients of a perfect apology to answer your own quest
- Don't cross your arms or place your hands on your hips when giving
an apology in person.
- Don't be defensive or angry (even with yourself)...
- Don't dwell on the apology or any of the other issues connected to the apology, whether or not you've been forgiven. And don't follow the acceptance of your apology with additional explanations, qualifiers or caveats. Move on!
- Once you apologize sincerely, don't keep apologizing. This will only make the apology lose it's meaning the longer you
dwell on the wrong you did to them.
Here's another 'Don't when apologizing' submitted by one of our readers.
- Its usually a good idea NOT to be cute or include a little
joke to "lighten" things up. An apology requires complete seriousness and respect
to the other person and a humorous comment might insult them further.
We hope that this list of things NOT to do when apologizing is
Review our list of Apologizing DOs.
Or go to The Perfect Apology Home Page