Learn this Skill: How To Make a Proper Apology

I could start a whole new blog (and I’m sure you could too) with the dozens of sometimes hilarious attempts at apologies I hear at my office (and yes, from myself, too).

There are 4 steps to a real apology. Practice:

  1. State what you did wrong. “I am so sorry I didn’t call you sooner when I knew I would be late.”
  2. Accept responsibility. “I should have taken the time to let you know my plans had changed. Because I didn’t, you ended up waiting for 30 minutes, and that is my fault.”
  3. Offer an explanation. ** This is NOT your opportunity to make an excuse. Don’t ruin your apology with excuses! You can revisit the other person’s part in the problem at a later time. ** “I got so caught up in my conference call that I didn’t even think to step away.”
  4. Show remorse. “So I feel terrible about what happened and want to be sure you know that.”

Here are some things I can tell you about people who make an apology:

  • The first person to make an apology almost always comes out as a winner. The bigger and more humble, the better.
  • With apologies among a couple, usually one person offers up apologies more readily than the other. This is OK. It is just as important that the receiver recognizes and accepts the apology.
  • Separate your apology from your desire to improve the situation for the next time. I know it usually takes two to make something go wrong, but you can create a new, snafu-proof system in a later conversation. Let your apology stand on its own.
  • After your apology has been accepted, suggest to the person that “Sometime let’s talk about how we can keep this from happening again. Maybe this weekend we can look at our schedules or figure out a system that works better.”

If you have a partner or a friend who apologies easily, count yourself lucky – accept his or her apology and suggest a later date to review how you can improve the situation, especially if it involves chronic apologies.