How to say sorry
Maybe you failed, for whatever reason, to invite one of your best friends for lunch with the rest of the gang, and you’ve been getting the cold shoulder ever since. Or maybe you and your sister-in-law are on the outs because you overstepped and criticized her parenting methods.
Whatever the offence, there’s a right way and a wrong way to apologize. Offering an apology that is full of defensive words like “I’m sorry, but…” will not help the situation, because you’re not owning up to your hurtful behaviour. Nor will a curt “So sorry you feel that way” pave the way to forgiveness; the injured person may think her feelings aren’t important to you. “That is not an apology,” explains Ellie Tesher, the syndicated advice columnist whose words of wisdom appear in 30 Canadian newspapers. “If you’re truly apologizing, especially to maintain or re-stabilize the relationship, then you have to convey the message that you are sorry. No buts or excuses.”
Adds Kathryn Belicki, a psychologist and a professor at Brock University who has researched forgiveness and apology, suggesting that it’s the offended person’s fault for feeling the way he or she does means that “the offender is not really taking responsibility.”
When it comes to apologizing, says Belicki, “every situation is different and every individual is different. An apology is a dance between two people, and the offender has to figure out what works in the individual situation.”
Here are five key steps that can help you make a sincere apology.