In our last blog about self-care practices, we mentioned that it is an excellent time of year to try to make amends with someone you may have hurt in the past.
Of course we all make mistakes now and then. However, it is the quality of your apology that speaks volumes of your character and values. By the very nature of the task, expressing your remorse can be uncomfortable.
People want to be heard, acknowledged and respected. So take the time to mindfully plan what you will say and do.
Here are four reliable steps to lean on when preparing an apology:
1. Express your remorse.
Every apology should start with two powerful words: “I’m sorry,” or “I apologize.” For example, “I know how difficult this has been for you. I feel terrible, and I sincerely apologize.” It is important to acknowledge the damaging impact that your words and actions may have had on another. Keep in mind that if your apology is immediately followed by a “however” or “but” (followed by blame or a lame excuse) you will only downgrade your apology and likely engender mistrust of your motives. We have all experienced an apology that didn’t feel authentic. The person may have said the words “I’m sorry,” and yet instinctively, you knew they didn’t genuinely mean it. Apologize from the heart, or not at all.
2. Take responsibility for your actions.
Remaining accountable for your actions by recognizing the damaging effects of your words and behavior is an essential step in the apology process. For example, “I should not have said that” or “I appreciate you pointing that out to me — it’s my mistake.” An effective apology names the offense explicitly. Own it. You need to be clear that you recognize the seriousness of the situation and the consequences of your lapse in good judgment.
3. Make amends.
What will you do differently going forward? Clearly outline how you plan to make things right and what actions you will take to commit to a plan to make amends, as quickly as possible. Depending on the situation, your plan may be challenging to implement — so be realistic about timing. However, if you don’t intend to change your mind — or your behavior — your apology will fall short, and you will further damage the relationship.
4. Promise that it won’t happen again.
Confirm that you will make good on your promises. Your words and body language should be congruent with, “I will make sure that this does not happen again.”