When you muster up the courage to apologize to someone that you harmed, it says a lot of great things about your character. When you tell your apology the right way, it makes a much more impactful difference. An essential quality in any apology is the sincerity and delivery of the message. What you have to say is necessary, but the manner and method in which you say it carries more weight.
In this article, we examine the 15 most important aspects to take into consideration when apologizing to a friend, loved one, or anybody who you owe the conversation. There are certain mindsets that you have when approaching the conversation, as well as appropriate types of locations and times for it to mean more. It is also vital to have an action plan to follow up with the person after giving the apology.
Understand the Reasons to Apologize
Before you apologize, you must understand why you will have the conversation in the first place. There are usually five reasons why someone may need to give an apology. The first is to open the line of communication between you and the other person of value. Having a common understanding that an apology is needed is the first step toward a healthy dialogue when giving an apology.
Another key reason you would need to apologize is to express your feelings of remorse and regret what you did. By admitting this to the other person, you also acknowledge that you were wrong in this situation. When you become aware of your actions and are upfront about your wrongdoings, you show a sense of humility that will increase the chance of the other person accepting your apology.
When apologizing to someone early in your time knowing them, it may lead to a crucial discussion about what is allowed and not allowed within the scope of the relationship. This type of talk will set boundaries and expectations for future decisions. By knowing what gets expected of each other, you are less likely to experience issues down the road.
Apologizing is also a great way to learn from your mistakes. By breaching a discussion about your wrongdoing intimately with someone, it allows you to articulate how you will be better next time verbally.
Apologize in Person Rather than via Phone or Text
If you want to convey the full value and emotion behind your apology, it is best to have the conversation in person. It is easy for bullies to hide behind a screen when they are saying things online, and you could do the same with an apology. Anybody who apologizes through a text message or email is taking the easy way out. By not apologizing in person, you are shying away from any raw emotions that come with it.
When you meet with someone in person for an apology, it sends a message to them that you want to dedicate enough time to making amend with them. When you schedule the window to meet with them, you should arrange so that you have no commitments right after it. This planning ensures that you will have all the time you need to formally apologize and then discuss more topics and game plan afterward.
When you set up the time to apologize, make it known to the person that you will not be able to communicate effectively unless you can speak with them face-to-face. When you meet up with them, give them your undivided attention and make excellent eye contact while you are making your points. Making the apology in person also allows you to read his or her body language as you communicate your points.
Find a Location and Time for the Apology
Once you have established that you can make the apology in person, the kind of location where you apologize is equally essential. You must make sure the site is private, quiet, and free of distractions. If you go to a noisy place, the other person may not be able to hear from you. If possible, do it in the privacy of your home or theirs, but you should give them the authority to pick the location of the apology.
You also want this to be a unique conversation shared between only you and the person. If you go to a shared space, someone might overhear what you are saying. You may also withhold information or communicate differently with your body language, knowing that there are people around. When you surround yourself with privacy, you can give undivided attention to the other person.
The time of the apology is also an important component. Work hard to fit your schedule around the time that the other person wants. A good idea would be to make the apology over lunch or dinner when the person is not in the middle of the work or stress. An apology during the nighttime would allow you to have a full conversation without having to worry about getting back to your daily obligations.
Imagine Everything from the Other Person’s Perspective
As you should in any conversation, you should seek to understand the other person before getting them to follow you. Before you formally apologize, put yourself in his or her shoes. Ask yourself how you would feel if you were them. Even though you cannot truly feel what they feel, showing empathy will allow you to deliver your apology better if you can get on the same wavelength as the other person.
You should consider all potential impacts of your wrongdoing or mistake. Was the person that you apologize to the only person who was indeed affected? By contemplating all the indirect implications of your error, you can address these components in your discussion so that you can apologize to the best of your ability. If the situation calls for it, you can bring all the impacted parties together for the conversation.
By seeing the events from the other person’s perspective, you can ask more educated questions. Significant inquiries result in a more extended, more meaningful dialogue between you and your friend or loved one. Take time to think hard about what he or she dealt with in the past. Their history, relationships, and other past traumas give you insight into how you can approach your apology effectively.
Manage Your Expectations
Managing your expectations is vital when making an apology. Saying “I’m sorry” does not automatically mean that the other person will accept it right away. It is a good idea to taper your expectations if the apology does not go as planned. Everybody handles trauma and negative situations in different ways. One of the most important things to remember is that the apology is about the other person, not you.
You may have negatively affected someone, and time could be the best healer in your situation. So, the apology will not be the means to the end, but it will be a crucial step in the grand scheme of the whole process. Part of full forgiveness will be letting your follow up actions communicate more than your words do. Outlining an action plan not to make the mistake again will get discussed later.
There is a minimal chance that the accepting of forgiveness might be impossible. Depending on the severity of your actions, the other person may express that they could never forgive you. The best thing to do here is to communicate your sincere apology and continue to show that you mean what you say. Opening this possibility before you make your apology will help you remain mentally stable.
Express Remorse about Your Mistake in Your Apology
Expressing genuine remorse for your mistake will get shown not only through your words but through your body language and facial expressions. Your choice of words and phrases need to be authentic, deliberate, and right to the point. Everybody makes mistakes, say things they do not mean, and acts irrationally. But it is all about how you reflect and show you are genuinely sorry about your error.
When you express regret, be very clear and communicate on why you are having the conversation in the first place. You could be attempting to strengthen communication or be upfront that you regret your actions so much, that you need to schedule this discussion about it so that you can formally apologize. You should be apologizing for the right reasons and not for ulterior motives.
The timing of your apology makes a critical case for your genuine remorse for your actions. The longer you wait after the mistake gets made, the less the message means to the other person. Depending on the nature of the transgression, try your best to make sure the other person learns about the mistake from you rather than someone else. If they find out before you tell them, follow up immediately.
Empathy is an essential aspect of expressing regret in your actions, so make it known to them that you are sincerely sorry for both the direct and indirect impacts of the situation.
Admitting responsibility for your part in the mistake is one of the most critical aspects of a sufficient apology and being upfront and honest about your specific behaviors, actions, and the violations of trust that occurred. Make sure to empathize with the person and understand who your mistake impacted all. Address the potential future impacts in your apology to make it more authentic and real.
Another important aspect is to understand the details as to why your specific action caused their emotions. The other person might be going through a variety of different emotions for different reasons. It is essential to understand all of these, address them, and talk about what you could have done differently. Addressing these facts will make communication more direct and productive.
Throughout the whole conversation, do not assume anything about the other person’s feelings, or how you think your words are coming across. Before you end the discussion, it should get fully understand how each person feels that the meaning behind everything got communicated.
Lastly, avoid shifting the blame onto anything and anyone else. This deflection of blame will take away fro the sincerity of your apology. Take full responsibility for everything you did and own everything.
Make Amends with the Other Person
You can say everything that needs to get told during the apology, but the follow up actions are what matter the most. It is essential to let the other person know that you will make it up to them in some way or another. You should outline a plan or schedule a future event to let them know that you are committed. This next event could be a dinner, a group event in which you include them, or some other value.
Another simple way to make amends is to tell them you will not make a mistake again, and then let your actions do the talking. Once you make your initial apology, revisit the conversation weeks or months down the road to circle back on your promise. It takes a big person to learn from his or her mistakes, and you can make amends by putting this into practice. It takes much longer to earn trust than it does to lose it.
By promising to make amends in the future, you put your reputation on the line. If you do not follow through with your future commitment, many people will question your character and trust. You create a high risk, high reward situation by promising to make amends. One thing you could do to keep yourself accountable is to write this conversation down in your journal so that you stay serious about it.
A refreshing, unique strategy for an apology is to express gratitude in different ways throughout the conversation. It is vital to let the other person know that you appreciate their time and that you are grateful that they gave you a chance to offer an apology. Showing that you are thankful for this opportunity shows that you genuinely care to make amends and try to correct your wrongdoing.
You can also show appreciation for everything that gives you in the relationship. You can thank the other person for sharing good times with you. If you have known the person for a long time, shed light on the memorable times shared. You can then let them know that making it up to them is essential to you because of how much trust you already built. A loyal person should get valued as such.
When showing that you are thankful for your person, make sure your words count. It is not what you say, but how you say it. Eye contact is something that often gets overlooked in regular conversation, so give them undivided attention throughout the entire conversation. People want to feel important and appreciated, and you are sure to give your apology more weight by taking this sincere, grateful approach.
While you might be doing a majority of the talking at first, listening is just as critical during the conversation that follows an apology. No matter what happens, the other person wants to feel understood and valued. You cannot connect with a person and show empathy without actively listen while he or she is talking to you. Do not just listen with your ears but listen with all your body language.
When the other person is talking, look them in the eye and show affirmation that you hear what they are saying — nodding your head a few times when they make an extra important point will show that you get locked in on what they are saying. When it is your turn to talk, reiterate what they just said and expand upon how you will continually work to remedy the situation. Do not interject and respond respectfully.
Another way to show that you are effectively listening is to ask fantastic questions. Focus on posing inquiries that revolve around how the other person feels. The facts are one thing, but it is essential to focus on the emotions of the person and where they stand mentally. When you bring great questions to the table, you prolong the conversation and make it healthier and more meaningful.
Write Down Your Apology
If you want to keep yourself fully accountable throughout the entire apology process, it would be helpful for you to write your thoughts, actions, and plans out. This strategy can get done in a journal, if you already do that, or on a sticky note that you can place in plain sight for yourself. When you put your thoughts on paper, it makes them more real because you think them, then you see them, then you repeat them.
Another reason why you might write down your apology is that you could be concerned about how your words will come off when you apologize. It is entirely reasonable to get nervous going into a conversation such as this one, so you could outline what you will say on paper. This strategy could help you organize your thoughts and help you feel more prepared when you sit down with the other person.
One thing you need to keep in mind here is not to make your apology seem too rehearsed and scripted. While it is good to plan and write words down, you want to make sure that you come off as a sincere friend when you have the conversation. When you are done with the conversation and have followed up steps to take, it is vital to put these down on paper as well to keep yourself committed to the promise.
Do Not Offer Excuses
The act of offering excuses is an easy trap to fall into when giving your apologies. The simple way out would be to try and explain your actions and provide justification as to why you did something. It is normal to try and defend yourself. But again, this conversation is not about you, and it is about the other person. Your priority should be to fully understand how you emotionally affected them, not to defend yourself.
Excuses are dangerous to use because it might make you feel better about yourself to use them, but they will severely weaken your apology. Offering reasoning as to why you did something will discount the meaning of your words in the other person’s eyes. Instead, be upfront that you are taking full ownership of your actions. Do not shift the blame on to other things to reduce responsibility.
A great way to prevent yourself from making excuses is first to explain what you did, then immediately follow it up by expressing that it was the wrong decision. You should be upfront by saying there is no reason for you to make the other person feel the way you did. And while it was not your intention, be cognizant of what you did and incorporate that into the apology.
Be Fair to Yourself When You Make an Apology
Throughout the entire apology process, you need to establish the difference between taking full responsibility and accepting blame for too much. You want to communicate that what you did was wrong and work to make amends, but do not be too hard on yourself while doing so. It is good to focus on earning forgiveness from the other person, but do not forget to forgive yourself as well.
It is also essential to realize that humans are not perfect and make mistakes. While you cannot control what the other person will say after you apologize, you can control how you respond and learn from failure. You will improve yourself and develop, and the repairment of the relationship with the other person will eventually come with it. Give yourself a chance to rebound from your misstep.
When you apologize, let the other person know that you are working to become a better person from the entire experience, not only for them but for your own sake. Be humble throughout the apology, but make sure to stay healthy mentally so you can take care of yourself too.
Do Not Expect Instant Forgiveness
The entire apology does not happen in a single conversation, so you cannot expect the person to accept your statement 100% right away. Depending on the nature of the mistake you made, it could get fixed with one conversation. But everybody’s healing process and timeline is different, and it is essential for you to recognize this fact.
Be forward about this in your apology and let them know that you wanted to have this conversation right away because it is essential to you. Do not put pressure on the other person to accept your apology because that could make everything worse. Be prepared for them to ask for space from you. Spending time apart from the other person could end up being a blessing to let the apology clear the air and sit.
In the days and weeks after the apology, be sure to follow up and see how the person is doing. Do not bombard them with messages or calls but let them know you are there to talk if they still want to. But through the entire experience, respect their space if they ask for it.
Promise That You Won’t Make the Same Mistake Again
When you commit not to make the same mistake again, your loyalty and trust will get put in the spotlight. This step is an important one for you and your relationship with the person because it puts pressure on you to follow up on your promises. It is critical to reassure the other person that you have an action plan to alter your behavior. Be specific when talking about how you will do that going forward.
After you outlined your plan, schedule a time with the other person to have a touchpoint on how well your changed behavior affects the relationship. By putting in the extra effort to follow up on your apology, you will increase your chances of repairing the relationship.
Conclusion: Be Sincere, and Actions Speak Louder Than Words
As you can see, there are many essential things to take into consideration when giving your apology. The most important thing for you to do is be real with them. Do not provide excuses or an explanation for what you did but own it. Take full responsibility, then be forthright about your action plan to make amends and not make the same mistake in the future.
The other person wants to feel important and valued by the time the conversation ends. By actively listening to them and being sincere with your words and body language, you will show them that you are grateful for their time. One of the more important things to remember is that the formal apology is half the battle, and the other half is following through with your actions. You are capable of remedy.