The Power of a Sincere Apology

No matter how interpersonally competent you are, you are bound to offend someone occasionally.  When this happens, you need to apologize.

Lynn Johnson says, “An apology is the superglue of life.  It can repair just about anything.”  I agree with her.  What do you think?  There are very few issues that cannot be resolved by a sincere apology.  Interpersonally competent people know this, and they use it to their advantage.

Several years ago I repeated a rumor – that later turned out to be untrue — about someone I knew.  One of our mutual acquaintances told him what I said.  The person about whom I repeated the rumor made a joke about it, but I could tell he was a little angry with me. 

At first I was embarrassed.  I wanted the whole thing to go away.  Then I realized that the only way it was going to go away was by apologizing.

I asked the two people involved to sit down with me.  I apologized for repeating the rumor.  They both said, “That’s OK.  You don’t need to apologize.” 

I said, “Yes I do.  I repeated a rumor that if I thought about, I would no was untrue.  By doing this, I put both of you in an uncomfortable position, and I could have done a lot of damage to one of your reputation.  I am truly sorry for what I did.  I will not do it again.”

They were both surprised by such a straightforward apology.  The person about whom I repeated the rumor and I have since become very close friends.  The apology was the beginning of my friendship with this guy.  Have you ever had an experience like this – where an apology brought you closer to another person?

When you apologize, you need to do it right.  Here’s what Randy Pausch says about apologies in his book, “The Last Lecture.”

“A bad apology is worse than no apology.  Halfhearted or insincere apologies are often worse than not apologizing at all because recipients find them insulting.  If you’ve done something wrong in your dealings with another person, it’s as if there’s an infection in your relationship.  A good apology is like an antibiotic; a bad apology is like rubbing salt in the wound.”

The common sense point here is simple.  On occasion, we all do and say things that can be hurtful to other people.  When you do this, you need to apologize.  Take responsibility for your words and actions.  Be willing to admit it when you’re wrong.  A good apology has four main parts.  Here is a formula you can use when you need to apologize.  1) Admit what you did that merits an apology.  2) Express your regret for what you did.  3) Ask for the other person’s forgiveness.  4) Promise that it won’t happen again – then keep that promise.

As always, I’m interested in your perspective on these thoughts.  I welcome and appreciate    your comments.  Thanks for reading.

Bud

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Comments

  1. Formerly from Denver, but now living and teaching in the Middle East, I find that people here almost never apologize. Even young children in school refuse to apologize when they’ve done something wrong.
    The reason is that by apologizing, you “lose face.” The only people who apologize are lowly people who are subservient to others. Therefore people avoid apologizing to avoid looking subservient or unimportant.
    As a teacher, I make a point to apologize to my class if I have shouted in anger, or something similar. Why? Because I am trying to set a good example for my students that it IS OKAY to apologize, AND that by so doing, you can be even MORE respected, by treating others with respect (by apologizing).
    Best regards,
    Eileen
    Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas (in the Middle East)
    elementaryteacher.wordpress.com

  2. Formerly from Denver, but now living and teaching in the Middle East, I find that people here almost never apologize. Even young children in school refuse to apologize when they’ve done something wrong.
    The reason is that by apologizing, you “lose face.” The only people who apologize are lowly people who are subservient to others. Therefore people avoid apologizing to avoid looking subservient or unimportant.
    As a teacher, I make a point to apologize to my class if I have shouted in anger, or something similar. Why? Because I am trying to set a good example for my students that it IS OKAY to apologize, AND that by so doing, you can be even MORE respected, by treating others with respect (by apologizing).
    Best regards,
    Eileen
    Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas (in the Middle East)
    elementaryteacher.wordpress.com

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