Every single person alive has said or done something that requires an apology. Surprisingly, most of us really suck at doing this well. If you want to repair your relationships, nurture trust or take responsibility for your actions – here are some tips to apologize like a pro.
Know what you are apologizing for
Before you go ahead and accept all responsibility for everything that has gone wrong – think about the part you played in it. What, specifically, do you wish you had done differently? If you are clear about what you did your message will be clear and your apology won’t be misunderstood. This step should take the most time. Think about it. Then think about it again.
Timing is everything
When you throw your apology at someone then scamper away – it doesn’t count. Make sure they are ready and willing to talk to you. Make sure their attention isn’t on something else. Ask whether they have time to talk. By asking whether it is a good time to talk – you give them a choice. This makes them feel more ‘in control’ and is likely to make them view your apology more favorably.
Don’t defend or justify your behaviour
The quickest way to destroy an apology is to defend the thing that you are sorry about. Don’t allow excuses for your behaviour to enter your head. Don’t justify the behaviour you are apologizing for. As soon as ‘but’ comes out your mouth – you’ve lost. Keep your message short and specific. Once you’ve said your piece, listen to what they say. Listen to understand, not respond.
Define a solution
You have to apologize because you said or did something you could’ve done better. How could you clearly define the measures you will take to make sure it doesn’t happen again? This is a great trust builder – but you better follow through!
Forgiveness isn’t a ‘given’
You’ve said your bit – and the person is still angry. What then? Don’t expect forgiveness straight away. Sometimes time helps and sometimes it doesn’t. Your apology shouldn’t be dependent on trying to get someone to forgive you – it should be about ‘owning up’ to yourself, and others, about your behaviour.
You are now armed with the framework to apologize like you mean it – and make it count.