Few things in life feel better than receiving a heartfelt apology. We know it when we hear one. It sounds accountable and remorseful. It sounds honest. A great apology is never diluted by excuses and explanations. It’s never weakened by an identification of someone else’s faults or contributions. There is full ownership in a heartfelt apology. If you are trying to apologize for a mistake you’ve made, think of it in four simple steps.
1. Say, “I am so sorry.” The word “sorry” sounds more sincere to the person accepting the apology. “I apologize” feels more remote and lacks authenticity. The heart is truly sorry; the mind is more likely to offer a lame qualifier.
2. Beat yourself up. This shows accountability and a willingness to accept complete responsibility for your error. Use self-effacing adjectives. “I was so thoughtless.” “I behaved badly.” “I’ve been inconsiderate and selfish.” Exaggeration is your friend. The person to whom you are apologizing might step in and save you from yourself!
3. Identify the pain your error caused. This shows that you empathize with how your poor performance negatively impacted him or her. “You must have felt completely disrespected.” “I’m sure you were embarrassed by my behavior.” “How awful for you.” Hyperbole strongly encouraged.
4. Wrap it up. “I promise I will not do that again.” “I hope you can forgive me.”
Anything other than complete accountability dilutes your heartfelt apology. If you hear an “if,” “but,” or “however,” or “the reason I did that was because,” come out of your mouth, ask if you can start over.
And should you be on the receiving side of a heartfelt apology, please remember to accept it graciously and generously with a “Thank you. That means a lot to me.”
Lisa Ryan LPC works with adult couples and individuals in her discreet and convenient Westport CT office. She serves the community in all towns in Fairfield County including Weston, Darien, Wilton, New Canaan, Rowayton, Norwalk, Fairfield, Stamford and Greenwich.