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  You are Here: Home :: How to Apologize :: The Art of the Apology  

The Art of Apologizing

Apologizing is both an "Art" and a "Science". The Science is basically the list of ingredients you need to combine when crafting the most effective apology for your case.

A good analogy is a picnic basket. A picnic basket typically includes plates, glasses, cutlery, napkins, etc.—all of the ingredients we usually pack to prepare for (and hopefully experience) the perfect picnic.  This is equivalent to the Science of an apology.

The Art of an apology, on the other hand, deals with how you should package, present and deliver the ingredients in the picnic basket. Giving some thought to these surrounding elements can help make your personal apology more relevant and successful. This is why apologizing effectively really can be thought of as an art.

 Apology icons

To illustrate our point, think again about giving the picnic basket as a gift. When selecting a gift, you inevitably think about who it's for and what kind of relationship you have.  You also think about the occasion or reason for giving the gift, and then decide on wrapping, presentation, and delivery. 

Now let's look at each of these elements and see how they relate to the Art of Apologizing.

If the recipient is young, playful at heart and a good friend, you would likely choose a basket that came with plastic plates in their favorite colors and fun patterns with bold and bright glasses and funky cutlery.

However, if the person was more mature or conservative and your relationship with them more formal, then you might opt for a classic china pattern and clear glass tumblers and tea cups.

Of course, if the gift was for your girlfriend or boyfriend, then you'd probably look for something more personal with a romantic pattern on the plates and long stemmed wine glasses, perhaps with a rose or two.

The point is that the personality of the recipient (his/her likes, dislikes, values, personal preferences) and the relationship you with them all have an important affect on the style, presentation and delivery  for your gift, as they would for an apology.

The elements (ingredients) included in most picnic baskets are essentially the same, but there is still a great deal of room for choosing different types/styles/forms of the ingredients for the best picnic basket for your case.  Apologizing should be viewed in very much the same way, whether it's a personal or business apology.

In other words, although every apology should include the same elements, the level of playfulness, formality, or romance you bring to it should be dictated by the recipient, the relationship that you have with them, and the nature of the infraction.

With all this in mind, when apologizing always think about which words to use based on the person and your relationship, and the overall tone based on the infraction. The more serious the infraction the more serious the tone should be.

WARNING: Always err on the side of assuming the recipient views the infraction as serious.

Apology Icons

Building on the picnic basket analogy, let's look at the occasion or reason for giving the gift. Is it a birthday? A college graduation? Valentine's day? Depending on the occasion, you may think of including some extra elements within the basket to make the gift a little more special.

For example, if it's a birthday you might want to add a few balloons, party hats and cupcakes to the basket. For graduation, perhaps a bottle of champagne and an agenda. For Valentine's Day, a small vase with a single rose and a heart shaped box of chocolates.

For a good friend, how about apologizing with a custom CD of songs about friendship. Or, for the more mature and traditional person whose feelings you may have hurt, why not a box of candy hinting that life is much 'sweeter' for you when they are a part of it.

And for your girlfriend or boyfriend, think about including a romantic poem, quotation, the lyrics from a favorite song, or maybe even some flowers.

Making an apology more thoughtful by adding things that tailor it to the recipient and the situation is an essential component of all perfect apologies.

The only limit to perfecting an apology is your imagination.

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As long as you include the science of an apology you can add whatever personal touch you feel appropriate to your situation to make the recipient understand how very sorry you are.

Now that we have our picnic basket (and apology) put together, the next step to think about is how you wrap and deliver it. When apologizing, there are two basic approaches for delivery—the verbal apology and the written apology—it's how you 'wrap' them that plays into the Art of apologizing.

Learn about the Science of an Apology.

Or return from The Art of Apologizing to How to Apologize.


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