They can uplift your spirit or crush your soul in an instant.
Intertwined within human existence since the dawn of time, words hold immense power.
They have a profound influence on both others and ourselves, for better or worse. That’s where the phrase “Mind your words!” comes from.
But despite our best intentions, we all sometimes make mistakes. We can lose our temper and lash into our best friends, family member, or colleagues in the workplace. Sometimes it doesn’t matter whether it’s done by accident or on purpose – once a bad word crosses your lips, the damage remains. And people may eventually forgive you, but they will definitely never forget how you made them feel.
What can you do to amend the mistake?
A good apology is so much more than simply saying “sorry”.
If you want to really make peace with yourself and others you’ve already hurt, you have to master the art of an effective apology.
You can improve your communication skills, deliver a sincere apology and rebuild your relationships in 6 simple steps. Let’s take a better look at them!
Listen to the complaint
Effective listening consists of two elements: attention and intention.
You have to pay attention to the complaint and also demonstrate a willingness to put yourself in other people’s shoes. If you listen carefully, you’ll manage to understand the reasons behind the complaint, the damage you have caused, and the best way to redeem yourself.
You should be attentive, with a genuine drive to understand and show that you really care.
Try to learn and implement the art of reflective listening – it will significantly improve your life for the better.
Recognize how you made them feel
Everyone wants to be understood and validated. After you’ve carefully listened to the complaint, you have to zone into your empathy skills.
This is the key element that can make or break the whole deal: if you’re unable to empathize with others, you won’t be able to deliver an honest and meaningful apology. And you don’t want that, do you?
As famous psychotherapist Alfred Adler said: “Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another.”
Put yourself in the shoes of others. How would YOU feel if someone has insulted or berated you in that way? It’s not really pleasant, isn’t it? Experience those feelings, allow yourself to feel what it would really look like. That’s the only way you can prevent yourself from repeating the same mistake in the future.
Accountability is what separates adults from children.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve done something good or bad: you should hold yourself accountable, no matter what.
And how do we apply that to apologies?
The most important element of an effective apology is an acknowledgment of responsibility. Don’t try to minimize the legitimacy of the offended person or provide shallow excuses (for example, admitting that you made a mistake is so much different than the vague statement “mistakes happen”).
If you can demonstrate that you truly understand who was hurt and how did it happen, as well as the nature of your offense, and if you claim your part of the responsibility, you’re on a good track to deliver an honest and heartfelt apology that will be accepted.
And here comes the finale: the apology itself.
After you’ve listened carefully, demonstrated empathy, and showed that you really hold yourself responsible, it’s time to apologize. Here is how to do it in the best possible way:
• Every apology usually begins with a simple “I’m sorry”. But you should never ever think that’s all it takes! Quite the contrary: Say that you’re sorry and explain in detail your feelings, your remorse.
For example, you can say: “I’m really sorry about my nasty insult. I’m aware it hurt you a lot and I feel so embarrassed and sad because of it.”
Keep in mind that this should be delivered with utmost humbleness. It won’t work if you’re defensive and you try to blame the other person.
• Admit your mistake and the negative effect it had
We’ve already covered this element with accountability – the most vital and important part of an effective apology.
This is a particularly good moment to empathize with the other person, as we’ve discussed before.
• Fix the damage
Most of the offended people consider the statement “I’m sorry” just empty talk.
You have to find a way to make amends and the best way to do that is to offer to do something to repair the mistake you’ve done. If you say “I’ll fix what I’ve done by doing so-and-so”, you’re committing to do something far more tangible than just offering a lame excuse.
Express what you’ll do differently
Once you’ve apologized and offered a way to fix the problem, you should explain what you’ll do exactly so that this may never happen again.
Be specific as much as you can. By taking this step, you’re showing that you’re REALLY willing to improve and rebuild the strained relationship. This will also minimize any chance of repeating the same or similar mistake again.
Now, the other person may decide to accept your apology or not or maybe will take some time to reconsider, but you should make sure that he or she knows that you’re honestly sorry and that you’ll do everything you can to make amends.
Stay mindful, don’t repeat the same mistake!
Pay attention to your words, they’re much more powerful than you think!
Think carefully before you speak. Count to 10 if you’re losing your temper, that will help you to cool off and prevent yourself from causing irreparable damage.
Always be mindful. Do your best to empathize with others and don’t say something you wouldn’t want to hear. Cultivate patience and understanding. These small, but significant steps are your best pathway to a happy life and successful interpersonal relationships.
We hope that this little guide has helped you to better understand and learn the art of effective apologizing.
So, what are your thoughts on it? Are you able to deliver a sincere and honest apology, or it’s not an easy process for you at all?
Whether you’re easily offended, or you’re brash and unapologetic all your life, by now you’ve probably realized that the key to happy and purposeful life is successful communication.
Whatever you’re struggling with, a Steady Space is your safe haven, committed to fully resolving your inner and external conflicts, so that you can finally have a happy and meaningful life as you deserve.
With our effective communication services and workshops, you’ll master not only the art of effective apology, but you’ll also be able to resolve your conflicts and anger management issues and improve the quality of your relationships.
Our packages are specifically tailored to fit your needs, and we offer both live and online sessions. For more details, check out our Services section on our webpage and choose the one which suits you the most.
The pathway to resolving your anger and communication problems begins with a single step. All you have to do is to make the final decision and contact us. Our committed team is here to provide you with the best psychological service and assistance all along the way!
More than a discussion, less formal than therapy.
Reclaim your inner balance with Steady Space!