Elements of a good apology(DW# 799)
Jul 16, 2020
Now that we have a good understanding of why apologies matter so much and how easily they can go wrong, let us explore what a good apology sounds like.
Researchers at various universities have found that the most compelling apologies include some or all of these elements:
§ An expression of regret
§ A statement of empathy for the pain caused
§ An explanation of what happened (not as an excuse!)
§ An acknowledgment of responsibility
§ A declaration of repentance
§ An offer of repair
§ A request for forgiveness
Their results suggest that if you’ve really messed up, you’ll do best if you use as many of these components as possible in your apology. However, the studies clearly showed that some of these components were much more important than others.
The researchers found that the single most important part of an apology is an acknowledgement of responsibility. In other words, when we mess up, we need to acknowledge that it was our fault. That we made a mistake. So if we can only manage a few words of apology, they need to include: Sorry. My fault. I messed up.
Following closely was the statement of empathy for the other person’s pain and hurt. It’s understandable that was upsetting to you.It makes sense that you were hurt. Anyone would be.
Asking for forgiveness on the other hand, turned out to be the least effective component of an apology. (Can you see why?)
Of course, if it is something that can be repaired, an offer of repair is also very important. If you are unsure how to repair the situation, you can always ask the other person: How can I make it up to you? I would like to try and make amends.
Here is the short version of an effective apology:
1. Acknowledge you were wrong. I am sorry. I should not have done that.
2. Understand and acknowledge the pain of the other person. I can understand how frustrating it must have been for you.
3. Offer to fix the problem or repair the situation. I really want to make it up to you.
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