How to Apologize

Video Transcript

Knowing when and how to say sorry can help to rebuild relationships and improve trust.

It's not always easy to say sorry. You may fear that admitting you were wrong could open you up to attack or blame.

You may be ashamed or embarrassed. Or, maybe you just think it isn't necessary.

But apologies are important.

When you admit fault, you restore dignity to the person you hurt. An apology gives you a chance to discuss what is and isn't acceptable, and to make some form of restitution.

What's more, taking responsibility for your actions can boost your own self-confidence, and restore your integrity in other people's eyes.

If you don't apologize, you risk damaging your relationships with colleagues or clients. It can harm your reputation, and even limit your career opportunities.

It can also negatively affect your team. No one wants to work for a boss who can't own up to his or her mistakes.

So, what's the best way to say sorry?

Let's take a look at a four-step apology framework devised by psychologists Steven Scher and John Darley.

Start with the magic words: "I'm sorry," or "I apologize." Be sincere and authentic. Don't make an apology if you don't really mean it or if you have ulterior motives, such as using it as a means of getting what you want.

Next, take responsibility for your actions and empathize with the person you wronged.

For example, you could say, "I know that I hurt your feelings yesterday when I snapped at you in front of the team. I'm sure it embarrassed you. I was wrong to treat you like that."

The third step is to take action to make the situation right.

You could say something like, "I was wrong to doubt your ability to chair our meeting. I'd like you to lead the team through tomorrow's meeting to demonstrate your skills."

Take care not to allow guilt to tempt you into offering more than what's appropriate.

Finally, explain that you won't repeat the action. This reassures the other person that you're going to change your behavior, and helps you to rebuild trust.

You could say: "From now on, I'm going to manage my stress better, so that I don't snap at people. And I want you to call me out if I do this again."

Make sure that you honor your commitment.

To learn more about how to make effective apologies, read the article that accompanies this video.

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