How To Apologize
How to apologize? What's the best approach to take? How do I say I'm sorry?
These are questions we often ask ourselves when we are in a situation where we have offended or otherwise hurt someone.
An effective apology is both a Science and an Art.
The Science is basically the
formulawhat ingredients to combine under the right circumstances
to produce the perfect reaction; that is to be forgiven.
The Art is
in how you apply the Sciencehow you actually deliver the apology.
When you combine the science and art of an apology you inevitably get the
right answer to the central question of "how to apologize?"
There are obviously many different ways to apologize, but the ideal
approach for your case depends on your answers to three straightforward
Who are you apologizing to? A family member (which one: mother,
father, sister, brother etc.?) A member of your extended family? A spouse or
lover? A good friend, girlfriend or boyfriend? A business contact or
How close is your relationship with this person? Is the relationship
a romantic one? Is this a
business relationship? Is it a distant,
but important family relationship?
How strained is your relationship as a result of the mistake? How
serious was the mistake? Apologizing to a close family member who has been
seriously damaged because of something you said or did requires a different
approach from one in which a friend has been hurt because of something you
said or forgot to do.
There are two basic ways to deliver apologies. You can apologize in
writing or verbally. In both cases you need to think through the apology to
make sure that all the ingredients are present.
There are many variations in both written and verbal apologies but keep
in mind these two key points when thinking about how to apologize.
A written apology gives the recipient the time to think about the
situation and your apology, before responding.
A verbal apology
requires that you be prepared for the conversation that
will follow the apology based on the recipient's reaction whether it is
positive or negative. So be prepared to think on your feet!
If the person is more of an acquaintance than a friend, and the
infraction is minor, go with a more formal approach. Write a brief apology
letter and send it to them by regular mail or email.
If this is a close relationship and the infraction is major, then take
the person out for a coffee, lunch or dinner.
If the relationship is intimate then think about
romantic ways to
deliver the apology. If you decide that a letter of apology is the right way
to go, make sure it is handwritten and not typed or sent by email. A verbal
apology in this case should be done in person and not over the phone.
Visit our apology DOs and
DON'Ts pages for some quick tips and secondary considerations.
Apologizing for many of us can be a difficult thing to do. However, our
level of discomfort is usually relative to the offence.
Most of us have no
problem saying "I'm Sorry" when we accidentally bump into someone on the
street. In fact that type of situation is so common to us that the ensuing
apology has become a reflexan automatic response with natural
timing. But what happens when we
have to think about apologizing?
When we start to think about the apology, we also think about the behavior
or actions that led up to it. As a result, our thoughts, emotions and pride
become part of the mix and we often feel embarrassed and a sense of shame
and discomfort with the situation which then translates itself into not
knowing how to apologize.
The good news is, that if we messed things up all the time, we would know
exactly what to say and how to apologizejust like we do when we bump into a
stranger. The fact that we are not sure how to say sorry, means that most of
the time our behavior is pretty much on track.
Learn what you need to
include when apologizing in...
The Science of an Apology
Or, return from...
How to Apologize to the Perfect Apology Home Page