How to apologize

Apologies aren’t about you. Keep the focus where it belongs on the person you hurt.

No one is perfect. We all make mistakes despite our best intentions. And when we make mistakes, we should be quick to apologize. Knowing when and how to give a good apology is important to maintaining good social relationships.

The problem is that most of us hate apologizing and aren’t very good at it. I have a son, I model apologizing so he is quick to apologize when he makes a mistake. He has friends that hate apologizing. It makes them feel bad and they think they are going to be in trouble so they resist this simple gesture that is so important to good relationships.

I suspect that most adults never grew out of their childhood fears of apologies. It would explain why most apologies are actually non-apology apologies.

The Harvard Business Review posted an essay about how to apologize here:  It contains some excellent advice.

1st: What you intended to happen and what really happened may be two different things.  What matters isn’t what you intended, it’s what happened. And more importantly how what happened impacted the other person or persons.

2nd: the apology isn’t about you. Your fears, insecurities and problems are totally irrelevant to the person you are apologizing to.  Their world revolves around them. They need you to acknowledge how they were hurt by what you did. Fail to do that and your apology will fail.

3rd: It doesn’t matter who is in the right or whether your actions were justified or not. It matters that the bonds of trust have been broken and they need repairing. You either prioritize the restoration of trust, or you will fail to apologize out of pride and cause further harm to the relationship.

4th: Accept responsibility. Most people resist apologizing because they know their actions have hurt someone else and they feel the need to rationalize WHY they behaved poorly. This rationalizing is a way to avoid responsibility and to maintain your sense of self as a moral being without having to actually change your behavior. A true apology, because it is focused on the consequences of your actions, is focused on what you need to change to not cause that harm again. To truly apologize you have to accept responsibility for your behavior and actually make an effort to not commit the same mistake. Because the only thing worse that a non-apology apology is an apology from someone who continues to hurt you.

What’s the worse apology you have ever received?

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