Apologizing is not as easy as it might seem at first. Sometimes, a simple “I’m sorry” does the trick. But other times, you need to do much more when you’ve genuinely hurt someone. If you want your apology to make an impact, you need to make an effort to craft it. And no, contrary to popular opinion, that doesn’t mean the apology is fake.
A well-constructed apology is no more or less genuine than any other apology. A simple apology can be the fakest thing possible. And a planned apology can be as sincere as it gets. But knowing the steps you need to take to construct a meaningful apology can make all the difference. You are less likely to be forgiven when you offer a fake apology.
Even if you are genuinely sorry, you must know what to tell people. If you want forgiveness, you must know how to communicate that properly. It also helps to have a plan because of how stressful and emotional these situations get. A guideline can help you when you stumble or choke up on your words.
Seven Steps to a Powerful Apology, According to Psychology
Apologizing is very hard because you want to ensure you are concise and clear. But, on the other hand, the last thing you want to do is create more issues because you don’t know how to communicate. So, if you want to know how to handle apologies better, psychologists recommend these seven steps.
1 – Acknowledge Your Mistake When Apologizing
There’s nothing worse than receiving an apology from someone who doesn’t even acknowledge they made a mistake. Right from the bat, you can feel just how fake that apology is. If you say “I’m sorry” to get out of trouble, that doesn’t mean much. Even if you temporarily get off the hook, problems will return.
So, for a good apology, the first thing you need to do is recognize your mistake. Then, listen to the one you’ve hurt and see where they’re coming from. They will tell you what the problem was and why they got mad. And you need to keep an open mind and understand what you did wrong. As soon as you do, you’ll be able to empathize with the one you’ve hurt. That way, you’ll be able to construct a better, more genuine apology.
2 – Be Honest and Authentic in Your Apology
The most important factor of a good apology is being honest. No matter how well-crafted your apology might be, no lie could compare to the truth. Admitting your fault goes a long way. Even if it’s scary to admit that you messed up, it’s the best way you can move forward. But before being honest with someone else, you must be genuine.
After you make a mistake, your instinct might be to get defensive. You might want to make excuses and do anything to save face. You might even try to convince yourself that lying to them might be the best option. After all, what they don’t know can’t hurt them. Well, wrong. Remember that the truth will always come to the surface.
It’s always better to acknowledge what you did and own up to your mistakes. Of course, the worst thing that could happen is not getting the forgiveness you seek. But at least you know you were honest up until the end.
3 – Apologize as Soon as Possible
One of the best things you can do if you want to have the best apology is to do it as soon as you can. The more you delay it, the less genuine it might seem. Sure, people need time to process and decide whether to forgive them. But that doesn’t mean you should put off saying that you’re sorry. They can have all the time to process after you’ve apologized.
Just because apologies are awkward doesn’t mean you should put them off. As soon as you do it, you’ll feel lighter. Plus, you’ll prove you’re genuine when you do it quickly. It will show that you care more about the other’s feelings than yours. It will also confirm that there’s nothing you want more than to fix things.
If you keep delaying, the other person will think you don’t care about them. It will just make them feel neglected and hurt their feelings more. So, to avoid all these potential issues, make an effort to apologize.
4 – Show That You Regret What You Did
It isn’t much you can do to make someone refuse to forgive you. Aside from the worst crimes against humanity, you’ll always have the opportunity to make amends. But the other person won’t take your apology seriously if you don’t show your regret for what happened.
Regret is not an emotion that anyone likes to feel. But it’s imperative to handle it if you want to move on. Regret shows that you understand what you did and how it affected others. It shows that you empathize and you want to make things better. Regret comes from knowing that what you did was wrong and wishing you could take it back.
And, when you genuinely regret something, it shows. People can hear it in your voice and see it in your actions. So, when you apologize, show that you regret what you did. Take responsibility for your actions and show the other person that you understand the pain you caused.
5 – Listen
When you give an apology, you aren’t talking to a wall. You are communicating with an actual human who has the right to speak. And you should be aware that an apology is more than words. It’s not supposed to be a monologue. Instead, it should be a conversation. You might start the apology by talking about something, only to discover that the real issue is something else. But you can only learn that by listening. If you genuinely want to solve problems, you need to give the other person the opportunity to talk.
But listening isn’t just good because it allows the other to tell you precisely what bothered them; it’s also a kind and moral thing to do. Whenever you apologize, you need to ask the other person how they feel. This discussion will make them feel heard and cared for. Sometimes, the loudest message you can send is silence. Let them vent about how they felt. Allow them to get all the negative stuff out. After they get their chance to talk, you’ll find it much easier to fix things.
6 – Make Some Changes in Your Behavior
Sometimes, actions do speak louder than words. And no, this is not just a cheeky catchphrase. It means a lot for the person you’ve hurt to see that you’re willing to change. Sure, you can’t change everything about yourself overnight. And you shouldn’t have to. You should only change the toxic parts of your behavior.
True, you won’t be able to prove that you have changed when you apologize. And that’s because you didn’t have the time to make the necessary changes. But you can at least promise to become better. This is why communication is so vital, even when apologizing. You must be willing to accept the change even before talking to the person you’ve hurt.
But you also need to keep an open mind and tell them what else you can do to improve. That’s not to say you should accept to do anything so that they can forgive you. Just because you made a mistake doesn’t mean you deserve to be hurt and changed. You still need to respect yourself. Sure, you need to take action to become better. But don’t let anyone stomp all over you.
7 – Don’t Expect an Apology In Return
In most fights, both parties carry their part of the blame. Sometimes, it’s equal. Other times, one of you did more harm than the other. And other times, it might be the fault of only one of you. Still, blame and hurt aren’t something that can or should be quantified. So as long as you messed up, you need to apologize and make things right. And one thing you should never do is expect something in return.
Even if you were hurt, you should never apologize because you are trying to force an apology out of the other person. Your apology should be genuine and selfless. Your intentions should be to make the other person feel better and make things right. Sure, if the other person doesn’t own up to their mistakes, you won’t be able to move on. But whether they apologize or not is their choice. All you can do is be genuine and sincere and own up to your mistakes.
Final Thoughts on Following the Seven Steps to a Powerful Apology
Apologizing is never an easy thing to do. You can never be sure you’re doing it right or that it will be effective. Still, you must be brave and ask for forgiveness when you mess up. And you shouldn’t apologize in the hopes that the other person will forgive you. If you want your apology to be powerful, it needs to be selfless and genuine. You need to do it because you are genuinely sorry, not just because you want their forgiveness.
You need to understand what you did wrong. Own up to your mistakes and understand how your actions impacted the other. The person you are apologizing to will feel this empathy. It will make your apology genuine and believable. You need to be honest and apologize as soon as possible. Don’t let things simmer and get worse. You also need to show remorse for what you did.
This works particularly well when you try to be a better person. A good apology also includes listening and seeking the other person’s input. Lastly, remember not to seek an apology in return. If they are sorry, they will apologize when they are ready. If you try to force it out of them, things will backfire.