You may be familiar with some common phrases used to apologize such as “Sorry, I apologize”, “My bad”, “Sorry if”, “My apologies”, or My mistake.” These phrases can be viewed as good first steps. However, they can also be viewed as lacking sincerity, intention, or accountability.
John Kador, businessman, describes what an apology should entail in his book, Effective Apology. “We apologize when we accept responsibility for an offense or grievance and express remorse in a direct, personal and unambiguous manner, offering restitution and promising not to do it again.”
Perhaps you have been the receiver, or giver, of a lack luster apology. That may have led to conflict or ending of a relationship. Or you have been a part of a situation where you believed you didn’t receive the apology you felt you deserved. The following ideas will help you find the most effective way to approach a meaningful apology.
A meaningful apology communicates the three R's: regret, responsibility and remedy. Author Beverly Engel explains the three R’s in her book, The Power of Apology, published July 1, 2002. She describes them as:
Regret: a statement of regret for having caused the hurt or damage
While your intention may not have been to cause harm, you recognize that your action, or inaction, nevertheless did hurt the person. This regret needs to be communicated. This includes an expression of empathy with an acknowledgement of the injustice you caused.
Responsibility: an acceptance of responsibility for your actions
This means not blaming anyone else and not making excuses for what you did. For an apology to be effective, it must be clear that you are accepting total responsibility for your action, or inaction. Therefore, your apology needs to include a statement of responsibility.
Remedy: a statement of willingness to remedy the situation
While you can't undo the past, you can repair the harm you caused. Therefore, a meaningful apology needs to include a statement in which you offer restitution, or a promise to take action, so that you will not repeat the behavior.
Unless all three of these elements are present, the other person will sense that something is missing in your apology.
A meaningful apology can be powerful for the giver and the receiver. If you’re interested in learning more about your own, or a loved one’s, apology language, visit the following website to take the quiz. www.5lovelanguages.com
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