Most people are pretty bad when it comes to apologizing.
Often you’ll hear a person’s poorly-worded apology and then listen to them wonder out loud about how it was not accepted. But then, if you ask them a few questions, you’ll find they normally do one of two things that completely rendered their apology useless.
First, they probably didn’t truly apologize for what they did, they apologized for your reaction. Simply put, they said “Sorry if I caused you pain” or “I apologize if I offended anyone” or something of the sort. But that’s not addressing the true source of the problem – they’re just evading responsibility in a way. It’s like saying “I apologize for that other person’s actions”. That is normally how people act if they don’t want to take ownership of their mistakes. And that is not a true apology.
The other thing they did is they apologized for their mistake but then tried to give you reasons for why, in their mind, they believe they acted rightfully at the time. They tried to apologize but at the same time said they just had no other alternative. In this way, they play it safe by apologizing for doing what they thought was right.
Our need to stay safe from emotional distress makes us pretty bad when it comes to apologizing. But if you’ve held a job for longer than a week, by now you probably know that mistakes are inevitable. The longer your career, the more you’d have to apologize for. And when an apology is done right, it can carry immense power, which can result in others respecting you more.
So if you genuinely want to work on your apology-giving, and you truly feel that you’ve done wrong, here are the 3 best things you can do going forward…
1. Express true remorse
Do not apologize for the person’s reaction. Instead, say “I apologize. I regret my mistake.” Simply apologize for doing what you did and actually mean it.
2. Take ownership of your mistake
Apart from a meaningful apology, you should take it a step further and say “I own up to my mistake” or “I should never have done that.” Do not try to explain yourself or try to blame it on external causes. You did what you did and you take full ownership of your mistake.
3. Promise to be better (and follow through with it)
And last but not least, tell the person you’ve hurt that you will work on becoming a better person. This is much more powerful than simply saying “It won’t happen again.” Promise to be better and actually do it. This is the best way to truly show that you’ve learned from your mistake and that you truly care for this person.
If you follow this advice you’ll increase your chances of fixing things tenfold. A strong apology can do wonders, but it is the actions we truly take that show we’ve actually changed for the better.
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