The perfect apology

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

So far, we've explored why and how you might need and want to say sorry. (Just in case you've landed here first, do hop over to Part 1 of this article to start off with).

On this page, you can find my advice for offering the perfect apology, and how to say sorry without creating an argument.

10 tips for offering a perfect apology

Buy a bouquet of flowersEven a small bouquet of flowers will help to heal the wound!

The best kind of apology is one that you deliver in person. 

  1. Pluck up the courage by reminding yourself of how you've 'survived' other difficult conversations (whether or not they were a success!) and how you've dealt with difficult situations in the past
  2. Offer your apology in person - ideally. Your words will mean the most to the other person - but a token gesture (like a bunch of flowers or tickets to a concert etc.) will add to the impact. A published letter of apology may possibly help with this too (see further down)
  3. Make sure your timing is right
  4. Spend some time talking about what your understanding is of the impact of your wrongdoing on your partner, colleague, friend or whoever else it might be (remember your research?)
  5. Take full responsibility for your role in the situation
  6. Apologise unreservedly by saying something like: "I now know / I can see that my actions caused [what you have observed or heard], I am truly sorry for that. I know that by saying / doing that [specify your action or words], I have damaged [your reputation, our relationship, your trust, etc].
  7. Ask what you can do to help your partner or other party repair whatever was damaged
  8. Make it up with flowers, tickets to a gig, concert or experience, chocolates, a bottle of wine and a card... but only as an addition - your words and actions are by far the most important factors
  9. Truly make amends by taking whatever action is necessary for you to address the underlying problem that led to your mistake. This is THE most important point, as 'just' saying sorry - without some real soul searching - may lead to you falling into the same trap again. So, you may have to address that addiction, depression, nervous breakdown or repeated infidelity.
  10. Having said how sorry you are from the heart you now need to accept the other person's reaction without judgement. He or she:
  • may need time to process everything that's happened
  • may not be able to accept your apology
  • may only be able to meet you half-way
  • may take the opportunity to express their anger and hurt

How to apologise without creating an argument

Here are the things you should avoid at all costs when you're apologising in person!

  • Do not have any expectations of the wronged person. Accept that they do not need to do or say anything in return for your apology. Following on from that ...
  • Do not burden the other person with your guilt - only you are responsible for overcoming your guilty feelings
  • Do not start blaming the other party - apologising unreservedly means that you take full responsibility for your part of the problem. It may well be that others were also to blame, but now is not the time to point the finger.

Is it really your fault?

I'm only addressing this very briefly, because the focus of this article is really on how to say sorry. However, some people feel guilty all too quickly - they almost apologise for being alive. This is invariably linked to poor self-esteem.

If your self-esteem is in your boots and you have a tendency to apologise for just about anything, then please read my articles about building your self-esteem. I would so love you to feel better about yourself.

Also, if you have a controlling partner, you're possibly at risk of at least emotional abuse. This isn't necessarily the case, of course, but if this rings a bell with you then it's worth considering.

Your partner may be manipulating situations so that you end up saying sorry for something that wasn't your fault or didn't require an apology. Under these circumstances you may start to suffer from excessive guilt. No wonder!

However, if an apology is in order and you really do need to say "sorry, I was wrong", here is an opportunity...

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

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Elly Prior

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