Some people are constantly apologizing. For others, saying they are “sorry” is one of the hardest things to do. No matter which camp you fall into, I think it’s safe to say you aren’t apologizing correctly. There are a lot of variables that go into how to apologize.
A bad apology can not only keep things from getting better; it can even make them worse. That is why it is so crucial to know how to apologize. Below are some things you want to consider/do when its time for you to eat some humble pie and say “you’re sorry.”
How to Apologize
The #1 rule of a good apology is that it cannot include a caveat. There is no “but,” no “however.” It is a sincere expression of regret.
The second most important factor in an apology is to tailor it to whom you’re apologizing. According to Dr. Gary Chapman – author of The Five Love Languages – there are five different ways people like to receive apologies:
- Express regret
- Accept responsibility
- Make restitution
- Genuinely repent
- Request forgiveness
Every person has a specific way they like to be apologized to. Personally, my top language is to express regret. My bottom language is to request forgiveness. I hate the feeling/burden of having someone put me on the spot and ask for my forgiveness. I would so much rather someone express their regret + accept responsibility for their actions. I remember once in college, my roommate’s boyfriend was ALWAYS in our dorm – even when she wasn’t. I asked her to have him return to his own room (a few doors down mind you) when she left for class. Six hours later at 11 PM, there is a knock at my door. There her boyfriend is with a pastry + an apology asking for my forgiveness. It is one of the most vivid memories of my freshman year because it was so uncomfortable. It’s not a good apology if it leaves the other person feeling bad.
This leads me to another rule of apologizing. Don’t overdo it. That will just make the other parties uncomfortable + honestly make it more about you than them. You’re the one who messed up. You’re the one asking for forgiveness. You don’t get to make them feel bad through your apology. It should always be about you taking responsibility for your mistakes. Don’t play the blame game. Make it about rectifying the situation + not your own ego.
The other important factor I want to point out is that without corrective action, your apology is meaningless + so is your word. If you aren’t making an effort to learn from your mistakes then your apology will ring hollow. So, after you apologize, make sure you are doing everything you can to avoid doing the same thing to that person + others.
There is no perfect method for how to apologize. As long as people can feel your sincerity, you attempt to apologize will go a long way. Try it today. I am sure there is someone to whom you can make amends.
Want to know your apology language? Take Dr. Chapman’s quiz here.