Learn to Apologize Efficiently

· September 17, 2017

Every day, at any place and circumstance, we expose ourselves to being in the middle of a conflict. In order to resolve them, it’s necessary for us to reflect upon what has happened. We need to understand that each one of us is a unique universe. We always make mistakes, even if it wasn’t our intention to do so. And learning how to apologize efficiently is an essential part of life.

Some people believe that apologizing is synonymous with being weak. In this case, pride turns into an obstacle in our apologizing process. Even if we know that we have made a mistake, there is no true intention to repair the event. Instead, we usually tend to attempt to hide it. Regardless of how aware we might be of our failure or error, it’s even more important to not let ourselves seem vulnerable, under any circumstance.

“A good apology has three parts: ‘I am sorry’…’It was my fault’…and ‘how can I do it right next time?’”
-Randy Paush-

Another obstacle when trying to apologize efficiently is the fear of the other person’s reaction. There is no certainty about how the other person will respond, and that produces fear. Along those lines, that insecurity is the element which paralyzes you and keeps you from accepting responsibility for your actions and its consequences. The mistake generates shame and this, in turn, produces inaction.


In order for an apology to be efficient, you have to offer it face-to-face

Recognizing that everyone makes mistakes that affect other people isn’t easy, especially if you consider mistakes as synonyms for failure. Instead, if you admit that the mistake or error also includes an opportunity to improve, then the story changes altogether.

flowers in palms of hands

In any case, in order to offer someone an efficient apology, the best thing to do is talk to the person that has been affected face-to-face. If you so desire, you can write them a message before-hand in order to tell them that you admit and recognize the mistake. That way you are accomplishing a first step, it approaches the subject without substituting the need for a face-to-face conversation. This step forward is fundamental, and in this case it shows that your regret is sincere.

Before apologizing, it’s good that you undergo a process of reflection about what has happened. It’s not always easy to detect what the mistake is. Was it what you did? Was it what you said? Was it the way I said it, but not the content that was said? What damage or harm have you caused with this error? Answering these questions will give your apology even more value.

It’s important that you dedicate time to the meet with the person you are going to apologize to. Your words will not have much meaning if you seem impatient. Also, it may give off the impression that this apology didn’t emerge naturally from you, it’s simply something imposed on you by something or someone.

Don’t forget to be humble when it comes time to apologize

Practicing humility means that you understand that you have made a mistake and that you have accepted it as such. It also implies being willing to make an effort to repair the damage caused. Actually, the apology itself serves the function of making a symbolic repair, but in some cases you have to go beyond this and compensate your actions in a more concrete way.

silhouette of man birds flying

On the other hand, don’t forget that your posture and gestures are also elements of communication and what they express tends to be taken as a more sincere message than the one you build with your words. The best thing would be for your body language to be in line with the message you want to transmit. In order to apologize efficiently, look the other person in the eye. Try to not cross your arms. This way, you will generate a more fluid conversation and not break the empathy in play by adopting a defensive position.

Always seek to transmit warmth and trust. You can achieve this by the closeness between your bodies. A firm but friendly handshake, a touch of their shoulder or forearm. Or, why not, even a friendly hug. These are some alternatives. But, it all depends on the personality of the person listening and the type of bond between the two of you.

Once you have managed to create and environment of mutual closeness, you’ll have the opportunity to explain yourself. It’s important that you specify how exactly you think you have made a mistake and confirm that the other person also sees the situation in the same way. Listen to what the other person has to say, without any forethought. Propose how you are going to repair your error. Your generosity and bravery towards confronting the situation will be the best guarantee of the acceptance of your apology.