“Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”- Benjamin Franklin
Apologies are one of the most basic yet complicated, fundamental forms of communication. We often find that people would rather over-explain their actions, try to rationalize their feelings with excuses, or avoid the subject entirely when faced with an opportunity to apologize for something they did wrong. Guilt and blame can be complicated feelings to encounter; however, leaving an apology out of an intense conversation can cause further conflict or detachment.
Andy Molinski of The Harvard Business Review mentions four types of ineffective apologies.
- The empty apology contains all forms but no substance. You go through the motions, but you stay stuck in your perspective. This tends to communicate sarcasm and a lack of sincerity.
Example: “I’m sorry, I guess, won’t happen again. Let’s move on, please.”
- The excessive apology draws more attention to the self than the other by emphasizing your stress instead of acknowledging another person’s feelings.
Example: “I’m so, so sorry for being late for the meeting! It won’t happen again, is there anything I can do? It won’t happen again; I’m so sorry!”
- The incomplete apology acknowledges that you feel bad for something. However, it does not recognize the other’s feelings or promise that whatever happened will not occur.
Example: “I’m sorry that this happened”
- The Denial refuses any accountability, fails to acknowledge the other person’s feelings, is defensive, and communicates conflict rather than resolution.
Example: “This was not my fault!”
Blueprints for Productive and Meaningful Apologies
Amy Morin of Forbes Magazine quantifies six critical components of building an apology.
- Express regret
- Explain what went wrong
- Acknowledge responsibility
- Declaration of repentance
- Offer of repair
- Request forgiveness
It is imperative to listen and be present in a situation where you may find yourself apologizing for something you may have said or done to hurt or offend another person. Try to avoid distractions, including resorting to looking at your phone or changing the subject. Avoidance can be interpreted as disregard or lack of compassion.
“Shame derives its power from being unspeakable”- Brene Brown.
It is challenging to communicate how we feel in moments of conflict by not verbalizing genuine feelings or possibly even our unmet needs. An apology can come naturally by pausing, reframing the situation, identifying emotions, and viewing the problem from the other person’s perspective. Blame often derives from shame, which can lead to frequent denials of accountability or failure to apologize.
Courage Over Combat
Compromise is often found in realizing when you have wronged someone, followed by an act of admission and the invocation of making it up to the person who was wronged. Emotions can become stubborn barriers that repel us from pursuing courage. Becoming defensive when we feel challenged can deter us from making things right.
Consider the timing of your notion to apologize. We need time to process specific arguments and discrepancies to reduce the voice of impulsive emotions. Reevaluate the situation, consider possible compromises that can help achieve a meaningful agreement. Give the other person a chance to speak, and be sure to listen attentively. Be sincere and mean what you say.
Justifying your side of an argument is an unnecessary and combative way of avoidance in apologies. It lacks accountability and sends a message to the other person that being right matters more than acknowledging how they feel. An apology should not be used as a tool to stifle opposition.
Allow Yourself to Feel
Apologizing takes a tremendous amount of vulnerability, courage, and honesty. Being honest with yourself and noticing where you may have been wrong requires a sense of seeing a situation from the other person’s perspective. Sometimes, it takes time to emotionally remove yourself from a problem and consider other people’s feelings.
- Apologize for the right reason. Try your best to acknowledge the other person’s feelings and don’t undermine their feelings with excuses.
- Describe what you are apologizing for.
- Try not to force your apology on someone.
- Making an effort to repair the situation shows that you are willing to accept accountability.
By: Mike Giannino