Have you ever been talking to a friend and, before you could catch yourself, said something totally rude and incredibly stupid? Your friend probably replied with “No problem,” but you can tell she’s mad, and you feel like an idiot. What to do to minimize the damage? “We inevitably do offend people, and offence creates a barrier. An apology conveying sincerity removes the barrier,” says Jennifer Thomas, coauthor of The Five Languages of Apology.
Why Is It So Hard to Apologize?
It's not about you. “Some people may see apologizing as a pride thing—a sign of weakness. They think it will hurt them in some way, but if you don't acknowledge the offense, it can be insulting for the other person,” says Beverly Engel, author of The Power of Apology. Remember that apologies are healing: It gives the person the opportunity to forgive and it mends your relationship
What to Say?
The most important things are your intention and attitude. “If your apology doesn't come across as sincere, it will be meaningless,” says Engel, who describes these three essential points to make when apologizing:
1. Recognize your relationship with the person.
Realizing how important the friendship is to you will impact how powerful your apology should be. Lauren Bloom, author of The Art of the Apology, says, “With friends, it’s tempting to assume that you can afford to be casual about the situation, but really you must treat it with the seriousness of any other apology”.
2. Express regret.
“When saying you’re sorry, show compassion and empathy,” says Engel. “You know that your action hurt someone.” Take responsibility by showing the person you know it was your fault. And be sure not to somehow blame the other person, says Engel. Don’t use the word “but” and don’t get defensive, says Bloom. You should always make sure you convey understanding for the pain you’ve caused.
3. Find a remedy.
Replacing what was lost or broken or finding another way to make it up to the person can speak volumes.
What Happens Next?
Once you apologize, be patient with the response. Yes, it would be easier for you if the person accepted your apology immediately, but that doesn’t always happen. “Don’t put pressure on the other, because that could ignite anger again,” Engel says. And if the person doesn’t accept your apology right away, try another way of apologizing. Keep in mind, a letter can help. “A letter gives the other person time to digest: She may reject it at first, but over time there is more of a chance that she will forgive,” she adds
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