7 tips on How to Apologize

You screwed up. Now don't screw up the apology. 7 tips on How to Apologize.

I'm sick of weak, insincere, in-artful apologies. A bad apology is like a second insult.

After you've messed up an assignment, showed up embarrassingly late or just generally let someone down a correctly done apology can not only get you back to sea level, but actually elevate you in the eyes of the aggrieved. Done right it can earn you new respect and even cement a relationship.

Done wrong, it makes the aggrieved party want to punch you in the head.

Too often apologies are shabby throwaways done out of obligation. And they feel that way to the recipient. The apology that's thrown out there as a Hail Mary – one just said in the hopes of ending a discussion that's unpleasant -is transparent. It's flimsy, hollow and meaningless. It stinks.

For me, there is nothing more infuriating than a B.S. apology. It can do more damage than the original offense. It confirms to the recipient that #1-They weren't really heard, and #2 – you don't really give a crap. I'd rather have no apology than a weak, insincere, throwaway apology.

Fortunately there are a few rules to a proper apology. Follow these 7 tips on How to Apologize. :

1. Do it in person or on the phone. Don't text it. Don't email it. For the love of God don't post it on Facebook. Do it like a man, (even if your a woman) person to person.

2. Don't use the word IF. There are no if's in apologies. I'm sorry IF I hurt your feelings. I'm sorry IF I was late. I'm sorry IF you thought I disrespected you There are no IF's about it ! You wouldn't be apologizing if you weren't already aware that your friend/colleague/sister was monumentally pissed off. The IF is a weak way of you letting yourself partially off the hook. It implies you didn't know the consequences of your actions, and you imply you still sort of don't . Obviously if your boss is scowling or your spouse is glaring at you, you are now aware there was damage done. We are way beyond “if”.

3. Own your actions in a single sentence, recognize the consequences and don't offer excuses. “I'm sorry I was late with (the car, the assignment, the payment on the loan) I realize it caused you (to rush, to rewrite my work, a cash flow problem for you).

Stop here, and shut up. This is critical.

Don't offer an excuse. STOP. Don't say it was because traffic was bad or you weren't feeling well or you had an unexpected bill. STOP STOP STOP after you have recognized and articulated negative consequences of your actions without a trace of sarcasm or indignation. Stop here and allow the aggrieved party to elaborate on why they were so pissed off. Give them the room to vent.

If they ask for an explanation, you may supply one. But wait until you are asked with questions that sound like “Why were you late?” “Why didn't you finish the assignment?” If these type of questions are not asked, don't offer the info. It means they don't care to hear your explanation. It also probably means you are a repeat offender.

4. Take your beating. You f'd up. Listen to why the person is pissed off. If they offer a myriad of reasons why your lateness, incompetence, shortcomings or rudeness impacted them, simply acknowledge them. “I see that now.” is a good validating phrase.

5. Resist the urge to point out the other persons contribution to the problem. If they are a thinking sentient adult, they will realize it. Just own your part of it and shut up.

6. Make reparations. Show the person you are truly sorry. If you aren't you shouldn't be apologizing to begin with. Make things right. Tell them what you will do to avoid creating the situation again, and mean. it. Don't use the word TRY, as in “I will try to call you if I'm running late” Everyone will a single brain cell knows that ‘trying' amounts to virtually nothing. Use an declarative statement with no qualifiers. “I will not lose track of time during my lunch break” ” I will not make fun of your brother at family gatherings again”

Not incidentally- prove your contrition with your actions. Your words will mean nothing if they aren't backed up with action. I shouldn't even have to say this, but I just did. So no excuses.

7. Resist the urge to have the last word. “Cmon-you must admit, your brother can be a turd” will torpedo the whole thing. Geez, are you a first cousin to a moron? Let it end.

Leslie Gold built and operated a successful window manufacturing firm with 165 employees for 10 years before selling it to a Fortune 100 company. She then developed a hugely popular and provocative radio talk show in NYC (“The Radiochick”) and is now heard on the Fox News Radio Network on 150 stations nationwide. She is also currently the rights holder and Executive Producer of The Gong Show Live Off Broadway production in NYC. A risk taker, a keynote speaker, insightful and direct. Her mantra is “I don't sugarcoat” www.theradiochick.com

9 COMMENTS

  1. Lots of good advice here! I especially appreciate the advice on what specifically to say and not to say. Another thing not to say is “but” as in “I know I messed up but…” The word “but” just negates what came before it, effectively erasing it. Also, watch their intonation. Three level intonation (high-low-mid) when saying the word “sorry” indicates they aren’t really sorry too – a normal “sorry” is said with two levels of intonation.
    @DrAnniceBarber
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dr-Annice-Barber/149792888519851?ref=tn_tnmn

  2. Number 2. Good lord, that “if” can drive me mad! Talk about weak!

    A lovely article on politesse; though rather depressing that it even had to be written.

  3. This is fantastic! I agree with the “but” tip, too. It’s a indicator that the person isn’t really remorseful or ready to own responsibility. It’s as though the person knows apologizing is the socially acceptable thing to do, but is annoyed that they have to apologize.

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