Now you’ve done it. You’ve said or done something that has put a relationship, business or personal, in jeopardy. If you want to save it, you’ll have to own your actions or speech. There’s just no way around it. If you’ve done something that you need to apologize for and you fail to do so, the relationship could be mortally wounded. And the longer you wait to apologize, the less likely it is that you’ll be able to salvage it. When you know you’re wrong, there are a few things you can do to craft an sincere and effective apology.
No conditions Don’t point the finger at anyone else. Just say you’re sorry for what you did or said. Remember, you can only own your own behavior. You can’t be responsible for what anyone else did or said. In this, the beginning of your apology, focus on your behavior, not anyone else’s.
Explain what the relationship means to you Why are you apologizing? What does the other person mean to you? If they helped you out when you needed it, tell them how much it meant to you. Focus on why you want to salvage the relationship. When you get to this phase of your apology, focus only on the other person.
Acknowledge the other person’s emotions If they feel betrayed, outraged, frightened, or out-and-out mad as hell, tell them you understand their reaction. Never tell them how they should or shouldn’t feel. Listen to what they tell you. Even if you don’t fully understand their reaction, mindful listening to what they have to say will help you to better understand them. Tell them that you are trying to understand their reaction. Again, at this phase the focus is on the other person, not you.
Explain what you plan to do to heal the relationship This won’t work if you haven’t put some thought into how you plan to be a more positive force in the relationship. Don’t bother to promise a litany of things that you’ll do different. We all know such promises are rarely kept. Instead, focus on one part of your behavior that you are going to work on. Then stick to it.
Ask for forgiveness This is the hardest part, because the person who you’ve hurt might not grant immediate absolution. If they won’t forgive you on the spot, be understanding. If they do, be appreciative. You don’t get to say when or if they forgive you. This part isn’t about you. It’s about the other person.
A well-crafted, sincere apology can repair and strengthen a relationship. Even the worst transgression can be healed if an apology is forthcoming. Relationships grow when they survive adversity. By apologizing when you need to, you ensure your relationships are strong and fruitful.