How To Apologise (& Mean It)

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We live in an age of apology. Every day some celebrity, sport’s star or politician tells the world that they are sorry for some indiscretion they were caught performing. And as you may have noticed, very often they are not good at it. Especially if they don’t actually mean it. But you can make a verbal recompense for something and appear legitimate. Just try these few simple techniques…


There’s nothing worse than launching into a fully fledged apology without actually knowing what it was you did. Before you go anywhere near the S word, establish the facts. You can do this by saying, ‘Look, there’s been a lot of crazy accusations flying around, tell me exactly what you heard.’ If they reply, ‘You know exactly what you’ve done.’ then you are screwed and you should throw yourself to the floor begging forgiveness. Otherwise get all the information you possibly can, just to make sure full remorse is necessary. WARNING: Clip has some bad words in it.


Heading to a neutral space for apology reasons is the cowards way out. You know that whoever you’re saying sorry to will probably not freak out in a restaurant or Safari Park. As difficult as it may seem, you need to approach them in a place that makes them feel most comfortable. If it appears as if they are being ambushed or manipulated by your choice of venue, they won’t accept what you are trying to say.


This might take some practice, but a fake apology is pretty easy to spot. Try to avoid smiling, laughing, juggling or swaying while you are saying that you are sorry. Take a deep breath and proceed slowly. Really slowly. Just. Say. You. Are. Really. Really. Sorry. That’s about the sort of pace you need. Don’t blurt out a speedy ‘Soz’ then start making a sandwich. Make it slow and passionate.


Picking the right words for your apology is vital. You can’t simply say, ‘Did you see Mr Selfridge last night, oh and by the way I’m sorry’. Make sure the person you are apologising to knows that this is the most important thing going on in your life right now and it’s eating you up inside. Don’t make them the focus by saying, ‘I can tell you are really upset, so I thought I’d say sorry.’ That won’t fly. Don’t make yourself the victim, own up to your indiscretions and appreciate the hurt that you have caused.


If you start raking over the details of your apology and explaining why you did the sordid things you did, it starts to sound as if you aren’t really apologising at all. ‘Look, I’m sorry, but here’s why I set fire to it…’ No one wants to hear that. Just touch on any information that’s relevant to your remorse, but don’t try to justify it. That will just lead to further recriminations.


‘I’m sorry, here’s that puppy you always wanted’. Sounds like a pretty good idea. But offering rewards for accepting your apology makes it seem insincere. As if you know you can buy your way out of trouble, no matter what you do. Just sincerely offer your remorse, talk it through and then suggest getting the person you wronged a great big present. But walking into the room with a wheelbarrow full of caviar could just make things awkward.


Having taken responsibility for your actions, you then have to promise to adapt your behaviour so it doesn’t occur again. Something along the lines of ‘I don’t think I did anything wrong, but if it makes you happy, I’m sorry’ is what we call ‘not an apology’. You can only sincerely apologise if you identify what you did wrong, own up to it and promise to take steps so you don’t repeat your mistakes.


Once you have made your sincere apology, you need to step back and allow your apologisee to process the information. They could react in any number of ways. There could be an instant counter apology and reconciliation, or anger and throwing. However they take the news, you have done your bit and now it is up to them. But think about your post-apology world. You may need to hang around and discuss things further – so don’t make plans which means you need to suddenly run away. Or they might not want to be anywhere near you for a very long time. So have somewhere to go. Like bowling or an air show.

Hopefully, by being sincere, committing to change and not complicating matters, you can say you’re sorry and have it be accepted without too much lasting damage.

Photo Credit: Kalexanderson via Compfight cc