We all mess up sometimes, and it’s a good idea to be honest when it happens. This often involves saying “I’m sorry” to someone, though, and that can be a tricky proposition for many people.
That’s why the authors of a new book — “Sorry, Sorry, Sorry: The Case for Good Apologies” — have compiled a short list of pointers to help you express your mea culpa in a heartfelt way.
- Be specific: Instead of beating around the bush, say what you really mean. Don’t use equivocal language in order to mitigate your responsibility. Own it and express exactly why you’re sorry so the recipient of your apology knows you understand what you did.
- Make an offer: If there’s some way you can make up for what you did, put it on the table. The other person might say it’s not necessary, but making a genuine gesture of goodwill can go a long way toward putting any hard feelings to rest.
- Signal change: In many cases, someone on the receiving end of an apology just wants to know that the other person has learned his or her lesson. Vowing not to do it again can be a good first step, but don’t hesitate to dig deeper and provide a list of steps you’re willing to take to back up your promise.
The book also includes a list of words that you shouldn’t use in your apology, such as “regret.”
Although you might be regretful when expressing an apology, they say that using the word instead of “sorry” can send the wrong message.
As co-author Marjorie Ingall explained: “Regret is about how I feel. We’re all regretful. ‘Sorry’ is about how the other person feels. And when you apologize, you have to keep the other person’s feelings at top of mind.”