sincere apology

Say sorry the right way: How to be sincere and effective in offering an apology

A sincere apology has the power to mend broken relationships and restore trust. Sincerity in expressing remorse and taking corrective action is what makes an apology effective.
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Be it in your professional space or your home turf, you are bound to land in situations where you mess up in some way, big or small. Mistakes are unavoidable. That’s what makes us human, right? But often in the heat of the moment when you end up hurting someone, it’s important to know the right way to make amends. A sincere apology does not only mean you’ve owned up to your mistake, but it also gives you the chance to repair and restore the damage. An apology that comes straight from the heart can mend a relationship while a half-hearted one may lead to further conflict.

When you insult or hurt someone, the best way to offer reconciliation is by apologising sincerely. This can be done by communicating directly with the person you have hurt and addressing the situation with empathy. A sincere and effective apology helps the healing process and can restore faith and trust in your relationships with friends, family, colleagues and yourself.

However, the biggest mistake most people make is to focus on themselves while making an apology. Instead of weaving your apology around your expectations and emotions, you must focus on how to make the aggrieved person feel better. To offer a sincere apology, your intentions need to change. You need to quit trying to save face or win when you genuinely feel regret for something you said or did.

Offering a heartfelt apology is important but it’s not always easy. It takes a certain level of emotional intelligence to apologise in a manner that does not create further distance or hurt the individual you’re trying to say sorry to. Here are a few tips on how to effectively offer a sincere apology.

Take full responsibility

Own up to your mistake without any ifs and buts. Begin by assuming full responsibility for the hurt you have caused, without including any justifications for your behaviour. Placing blame or attempting to justify your actions will dilute the intent of your apology and hurt your integrity. Using excuses and reasoning to justify your actions or shortcomings (e.g. “I was under stress at the time” or “You are just overreacting”) will only intensify the feelings of resentment, hostility and pain. Remember that your sincere apology is for the other person to acknowledge. At this point, it doesn’t matter if the offense was intentional or not because the outcome ended up causing harm. Recognise what you should have done differently and commit to making a change in the future.

Identify and acknowledge the offense

It’s never easy to admit your mistake. Sometimes, it feels easier to sever a friendship, cut off ties with a family member, or even end a relationship because you shy away from admitting your fault. So, it’s important to make an effort to consider your actions and reflect on the conflict from all perspectives. Understand why you are apologising before you offer it. Don’t rush to apologise without evaluating what caused suffering to the other person. The person affected needs to be aware of what exactly you are apologising for. This allows you to elaborate on the reason and take responsibility for your mistake.

Show empathy

For your apology to feel sincere, empathise with the one who is upset before you offer your apology. It is important to identify and acknowledge the emotional discomfort of the offended. A brisk, unfelt expression of apology does not leave any room for discussion, resolution or forgiveness. By being empathetic, you’re identifying with their emotions, thoughts and perspectives. This is necessary for you to realise how they were affected by your words or actions. When you understand the full extent of how your actions affected the other person, it often leads to a change of heart and paves the path for reconciliation.

Express remorse

Remorse is the genuine sorrow you feel for the pain you have caused to someone else. Expressing remorse helps to reestablish communication by promoting emotional intimacy. Nothing else in the apology matters if you don’t show concern for the other person’s feelings as a result of your actions. Remorse helps them know you not only feel terrible for what happened, but you also care about their sentiments and won’t repeat your actions in the future.

Communicate clearly and accurately

Before hurrying to offer an apology, consider how the person will interpret it. What you say when admitting a mistake can impact the trust you establish in the relationship moving forward. Rachel Sussman, a psychotherapist and relationship expert says that one of the best ways to apologise is by using an “I” statement, such as “I apologise for my behaviour” or “I know what I did was wrong.” If you don’t consider your words carefully, you can add further insult to injury. Also, allow the victim to communicate their feelings and speak their minds before you proceed with your apology.

Make amends

Your apology is most effective when you try to replace everything you’ve done wrong with all you can do to make it right. Be sure to express your willingness to make any amends necessary. You can ask, “What can I do to make the situation right?”. Whether the situation requires one action or several stages to remedy, you should have a detailed plan. Develop your plan in advance and explain it during your apology. This is the best way to ensure that you don’t commit the same mistake in the future. Suggesting ways to resolve the problem also reinforces your remorse, thus helping the healing process of the person you’ve hurt.

Ask for forgiveness

Once you have recognised that you were wrong, ask for forgiveness without any conditions or even the assumption that the other person will forgive you. Express your gratitude for being allowed the chance to apologise and also your desire to be forgiven. They may not acknowledge your apology immediately, and that is alright. Try not to get distressed or hurt. After you have offered your apology, give them as much space as they need to recuperate and forgive you.

Ensure that you don’t repeat the behaviour

It doesn’t help to apologise earnestly and then repeat the same behaviour you offered an apology for. Expressions of regret and remorse are hollow if you don’t put a sincere effort into ensuring that you don’t continue making the same mistakes. A sincere apology lets the other person know that you’re not proud of what you did. Clarify what you will do differently the next time so that you don’t repeat the offending action. This will help rebuild trust and improve your relationship in the future.

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