It is easy to hurt someone’s feelings. It is much harder to apologize, but an honest apology makes everyone feel better. Here are five important tips for a good apology.
- Eye contact is important. If someone is hurt deeply, they expect a personal apology, not an email. Emails are OK if you have to miss a meeting or cancel an appointment. But for serious mistakes, an apology in person means a lot more. Both parties can read the other’s body language to see if the apology is honest.
- Finding a way to start the apology can be difficult. When you are ready to bring up the subject, you might say something like, “Hey, I wanted to talk to you about something.” That signals the subject matter is important. Next you might say, “I know you were unhappy with something that I did, and I’d like to talk to you about that.”
- Include the “I,” as in “I’m sorry,” not just “Sorry.” To just say “sorry” is like “Love ya!” instead of “I love you.” “Sorry” is often used by kids who feel justified in what they did. We need to teach children that, if something they’ve done has upset the other person, and they don’t want the person upset, then they say an honest apology.
- Do not try to justify what you did to make the person feel bad. You may make things worse. If you are not sure what caused offense, however, it’s OK to say, “I see I hurt your feelings. I don’t completely understand. Can you tell me what you’re feeling?” When the person says what upset them, you can then say “I didn’t know it would make you feel the way it did or I never would have said it. That wasn’t my intention. I’m sorry.”
- Do not expect instant forgiveness. If you feel that your apology was not accepted you may want to add, “Will you please forgive me?” Sometimes the other person may just need time.
It is OK to make a child apologize. You might say, “If you want to do whatever the next thing is that you want to do, you have to apologize to your sister.” If you wait till they really feel sorry, you might be waiting 10 years. What is more important is to get the child to know that apologizing is the right thing to do.
How to receive an apology: You don’t have to say, “Oh, that’s OK.” Especially if you’re still angry. You might say instead “Thank you for apologizing.”