Friday 27 March 2015


Part 1 of 2: Forming Your Own Apology

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    Think about what went wrong. Did you say something insensitive? Did you fail to come through on a promise? Was the offense recent or long ago? Were other people hurt as well? You can't apologize effectively if you don't know what you've done wrong.
    • If you don't think you did anything wrong, then express regret or sadness for the feeling that someone is experiencing as a result of what you did. If the effect was unintended, you should still apologize because someone was hurt by your words or actions. You can say that you did not foresee how your actions would affect this person, you realized that the benefits of the action did not outweigh the unforeseen consequences, and you want to compensate for your oversight.
    • Understand that if your error was in offending someone, whether or not you were right is irrelevant. You may have made a very good point in what you said, but remember that you're apologizing for making the other person feel bad. Apologizing doesn't mean whatever you said was incorrect or false, it just means you were sorry that you hurt someone else with your words or actions.
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      Understand that apologizing is not about you. It is not about whether or not it was right to blame you. It is not about who was at fault or who should be blamed. An apology is not an explanation or a justification - it has nothing to do with who was right or wrong. You are apologizing to someone because you made them feel bad. You can discuss right and wrong later, but when you are apologizing, focus on the other person and not on you.
      • When you are apologizing, there are no excuses. Often, it's true that there is more than one person at fault, but remember that you can't apologize for others. You can only apologize for yourself. Later, when everyone is calmed down, you can explain what actually happened.
      • A dodgy or sarcastic apology often feels more like an insult, because it implies that you don't see the other person's pain as valid enough to put their feelings before your own when you apologize to them.
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      Choose the right time to apologize. Sometimes immediately after your mistake is best; sometimes it's better to wait. The sting of a harsh word can be cooled with a quick apology, but other offenses might need the other person to cool down before they are willing to even listen to your next sentence. However, the sooner you apologize for your mistake, the more likely it will be viewed as an error in judgment and not a character flaw. If you wait forever to apologize, it may be impossible to mend your relationship with someone else.
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      Write your apology down (optional). If you're having a hard time mustering the words for an apology, consider writing your feelings down. You can either give your apology to the other person as a letter, or use your notes as a guide while you deliver the apology in person. Take your time and sort out exactly why you feel compelled to apologize, and what you'll do to ensure the mistake won't happen again.
      • If you don't feel comfortable with writing, then use a voice recorder. Not only will this help you remember what to say when you're face-to-face with them, but you can also bring the copy with you and hand it to them if you find the apology quite difficult to express.
      • A phoned, emailed or recorded apology may show a lack of sincerity and effort. If possible, it's best to apologize in person and make sure you are doing it as sincerely as you can - don't shuffle, don't look away, don't act as if you were preoccupied or uninterested.

    Part 2 of 2: Apologizing

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      Start off with what went wrong. Begin the apology by stating what went wrong and the feelings your words or actions caused. Be detailed about what happened so that the other person knows exactly what you're apologizing for.
      • Make it a point to avoid using the words "but" or "if". An apology is a statement, so it shouldn't be conditional. Remember that an apology has nothing to do with right and wrong or whose fault it was - an apology simply means that you made someone feel bad with your words or actions and you are sorry about that.
      • Do not say "I'm sorry you feel that way" or "I'm sorry if you were offended." Be sorry for what you said or did, and the pain that it caused someone else. "I'm sorry you feel that way" makes it seem like you are blaming the other person for feeling bad, and is not a real apology. When you apologize, you should recognize that the other person was hurt and that you are sorry about that.
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      Say sorry. Use clear, direct statements. "I am sorry for offending you" is a good example because it takes full responsibility, while "I am sorry if I offended you" is not direct and tells the other person that you aren't even sure if you offended them (when you did).
      • Understand that just saying "please forgive me" does not qualify as a true apology. When you say that, you aren't even acknowledging that you hurt someone's feelings. Many people use the term "please forgive me" as a path to avoid responsibility. Instead, be sincere and show that you are truly sorry of what you did, and you would like to repair your relationship with the person.
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      Make amends. Think about what caused you to make the offense. Is it because you didn't pay attention to the time, or because you have a hard time remembering promises you made? Is it because you tend to react instantly to certain comments, without pausing to consider an alternative point of view? Is it because you are unhappy with your life, and you unknowingly take it out on others? Find the underlying problem, describe it to the person without pointing fingers at anyone else, and tell them what you intend to do to solve that problem so that you can avoid the mistake in the future.
      • For example, a good apology would be: "I snapped at you because I've been so stressed out with work lately, and it's selfish of me to take it out on you. Starting tomorrow, I'm going to cut down my hours to X per week. I really think it'll help me unwind, and help us spend more quality time together."
      • Another example would be: "I've been distant and cold because I got paranoid that you're going to walk out on me since I don't have a job. But that's a terrible way to behave. Look, here's a list of things I'm going to do to find a job as soon as possible."
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      End with gratitude. Express your appreciation for the role that they play in your life, emphasizing that you do not want to jeopardize or damage the relationship. This is the time to briefly recount what has created and sustained the bond over time and tell loved ones that they are indeed loved. Describe what your life would be missing without their trust and their company.
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      Request forgiveness. Ask if they will give you another chance to make up for what you did wrong. Tell them you want to show them that you've learned from your mistake, and that you will take action to change and grow as a result, if they will let you. Make a clear request for forgiveness and wait for their answer. Since it was the other person that was hurt, you should allow them to make their own decision about whether or not to forgive you.
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      Be patient. If an apology is not accepted, thank them for hearing you out and leave the door open in case they want to talk about it later. (For example, "I understand you're still upset about it, but thanks for giving me the chance to apologize. If you ever change your mind, please give me a call.") Sometimes people want to forgive you, but they still need a little time to cool off.
      • Remember, just because someone accepts your apology doesn't mean they've fully forgiven you. It can take time, maybe a long time, before the other person can completely let go and fully trust you again. There is little you can do to speed this process up, but there are endless ways to bog it down. If the person is truly important to you, it's worth it to give them the time and space they need to heal. Don't expect them to go right back to acting normally immediately.
      • At the same time, don't let someone hang this over your head for the rest of your life. The same way you need to learn how to apologize, they need to learn how to forgive.
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      Stick to your word. A true apology includes a solution, or expresses that you are willing to fix the problem. You promised to work towards solving the problem, and you have to carry out your promise in order for the apology to be sincere and complete. Otherwise, your apologies will lose their meaning, and trust may disappear beyond the point of no return.


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