Best Ways to Apologize

Sometimes your words or actions toward another are out of line and an apology is in order. There is an art to offering a sincere apology. When you have hurt someone, either deliberately or inadvertently, remorse will inevitably set in, and knowing the best way to apologize will ensure that you are forgiven and the relationship is not tainted with residual resentment.

Whether the person you have wronged is your family member, a child, a coworker or a stranger you encounter as you go about your daily routine, an extended apology needs to contain four components in order to be effective and perceived as sincere.

Best ways to apologize:

* Acknowledge your infraction

Own what you did wrong. Simply saying, “I’m sorry you feel bad,” is not an apology.  Saying, “I spoke out of turn, and it was not my business to do so, I‘m sorry, can you forgive me?” is a mature acknowledgement of wrongdoing, putting the blame squarely on your own shoulders without discounting the offended person. Acknowledging your infraction is the first component to a sincere apology.

* Show remorse

Present a remorseful demeanor when you are offering an apology. Being flippant or turning your apology into a clever joke might make you feel more comfortable in an awkward moment, but that type of behavior hardly projects true sorrow. When you are voicing sorrow, ensure your body language aligns with the words you speak. By displaying true remorse, you validate the other individual’s feelings.

* Express the intent not to repeat

Part of a sincere apology is expressing your determination not to repeat the offensive words or behavior. If you lost your temper with your child, ridiculed a coworker in a public meeting or committed any other offensive infraction, you are more liable to obtain forgiveness and restore trust if you reiterate your intention to not behave in that manner again.

* Resolution or restitution

The final component of a sincere apology is to offer a resolution or, if feasible, make restitution. If you have hurt your child with an over the top display of bad temper, give him an immediate hug as a follow up to your verbal apology and then make it a point to spend some quality one-on-one time with him to repair the bond between you and reassure him of your love and caring. If you made a mistake at work that inconvenienced others, follow up your apology with an offer to stay late and fix the issue, or if you have insulted a coworker, offer to manage his desk while he takes a break. Small token gifts are another way to convey to an offended party intent to behave better in the future.

It is not enough to be sorry when you have hurt, offended or inconvenienced another. You have to convey that sorrow in an artful, sincere apology in order to move forward with better understanding and peace of mind for both yourself and the wronged party.

The best way to apologize for any intentional or inadvertent offense is to acknowledge that you were wrong, show remorse, express your intention to do better and make restitution, when possible. Sincere apologies pave the way to improved relationships, peace of mind and more congenial environments for everyone concerned.