Nobody likes to admit they’ve messed up, but let’s face it, sooner or later it’s gonna happen. Learning how to apologize the right way is vital if you hope to preserve your relationship(s) over the long haul.
An effective apology contains FOUR ELEMENTS:
1. A statement of REMORSE. This tells the other person you feel bad about what’s happened and it usually takes the form of, “I’m sorry…”
2. A statement of personal RESPONSIBILITY. Never follow “I’m sorry” with “but.” That’s not an apology — that’s an excuse. If you are sincere then you need to take responsibility for whatever has happened. Own it & confess it: “I’m sorry that I _______…” Don’t pass the buck; don’t try to justify it; just acknowledge that you messed up and confess what you did wrong.
3. A statement of REPENTANCE. It’s not good enough to feel bad for something you’ve done if you haven’t learned from it. If faced with a similar situation in the future, what will you do differently? This conveys that you’re serious, you’ve given it some thought, and you’re not just trying to get out of the doghouse. “I’m sorry that I [did this terrible thing]. Next time I’ll [do this instead of that]…”
4. A statement of RESTORATION. The whole point of an apology is to bring healing to your relationship. As the “debtor” in the situation, restoration isn’t yours to grant — you have to request it. I suggest you ask nicely. The most common approach is, “Please forgive me.” Hopefully this will do the trick, but depending on the nature of your offense you may have to endure purgatory for a while. If so, take your medicine like a man; stay humble; remember that restoration is a process.
That’s my formula for an effective apology, but maybe I’m missing something. In your experience, what makes for a good apology? What makes an apology seem insincere?