Throughout the day we will hear “I’m sorry”. Many times we hear those two words but notice the ineffectiveness of it or lack of ‘true’ apology. Many people will say “I’m sorry” and have a general emptiness with their response. This is especially so when it tends to be a recurring theme. The following is a way to have effective apologies
- Apologize and Take Responsibility
Yes, we need to apologize and say we are sorry. It is polite, respectful, and more likely to get us further in the future. “I am sorry. What I did was wrong/incorrect/not the right thing to do, and I want to take responsibility for it”. This is an example of an effective apology with responsibility.
I have borrowed this from the 12-step recovery models. We make amends by making up for what we did that was wrong or incorrect. We share what we will do now to repair what we did. For example, ” I will make up for being late for curfew by coming home an hour early for the next three days” or “I will do your laundry for the next week to make up for wearing your clothes without asking.” Make amends, and do so by taking action about what you will do now to make up for what you have done.
3. Learn for the Future
The third part of an effective apology is to say (and, of course follow through with) what you will do to avoid making the same mistake in the future. If you said something rude or critical, make a plan to pause, think before you react, or be mindful before you open your mouth. If you are chronically late, let the person know the concrete actions and steps you will do to avoid being late in the future. Show that you can and are willing to learn from your mistakes.
Sometimes a simple apology is sufficient, but for repeated mistakes or offenses, take it to the next level and try something like this. Show that you know how what you did was wrong or that you upset the person. Taking initiative to do something about it, and being willing to make changes so this doesn’t happen in the future is a way of validating the person. It also makes us look good, and shows that we are willing to take initiative.
- Psychology Today