Saying Sorry – 5 Steps to Offering a Sincere Apology

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It should go without saying that a post-it note apology is not the way to go if you want your sincerity to be felt. Gift hampers are a step up, but they still lack the personal connection needed to truly get your message through. 

So, what are you meant to do when you have something serious to apologize for? It won’t be easy, but the following five steps will get you there. 

1. Ask first

Depending on the nature of your transgression, the person to whom you need to apologize might not be ready to hear it. As much as you want to make things right, forcing the situation is not the way to do it. Instead, it’s important to respect the other person’s feelings by letting them know you wish to apologize but letting them set the time, place, and parameters of the interaction. 

2. Let them speak

Allow the person to communicate their side of the situation to you. Give them space to explain everything from their perspective, including how your actions made them feel. It’s common for people to harbor a secret belief that the person they’re apologizing to was overreacting or taking their actions the wrong way. However, by letting them speak, you will often discover that there were elements to the situation that you didn’t understand because you weren’t seeing things from their perspective. 

Giving them the space to let it all out will help you understand precisely what it is you’re apologizing for. You’re less likely to harbor any lingering resentment and they’re more likely to feel that they can trust that your apology is genuine. 

3.Acknowledge their feelings but apologize for what you did

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of an “I’m sorry you got hurt” or “I’m sorry you took it that way” apology, you’ll know what we’re talking about. It’s important to acknowledge that the person was hurt and that they have every right to be upset with you. However, when you apologize, you need to name what you did wrong and focus your apology on those actions. 

This way, you’ll make it clear that you understand where you were at fault. Regardless of your intentions, saying you’re sorry that the person felt hurt by your actions can come across as though you’re suggesting they’re in the wrong for feeling that way. 

4. Make amends

Though the words are important, your actions are where you truly communicate your sincerity. Come up with some ideas on how you could make amends that suit the situation. If you’ve broken something, paying for repair or replacement makes sense. If it was a more general offense, like gossiping about a close friend, you may wish to pay for a massage, spa day, cosmetic tattooing, or anything else that makes them happy. This step will be different for every person and every situation, but the key is to present it as reparations, not an attempt to buy their forgiveness. 

5. Give them space to forgive in their own time

Regardless of how heartfelt your apology is, the person may need a bit of time to process it. If this is the case, it’s important to give them the space to do this. Though it would be wonderful to be able to put the whole thing behind you, forgiveness is a choice to be made by the other person. 

Follow the steps above, and ensure every word comes from the heart. By doing so, you will lift at least a little of the burden of guilt from your shoulders.