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10 Rules For An Apology

2010 March 29

I was thinking about my recent post on Forgiveness … and it did not take long to start thinking about apologies.  In the past few years we have had a few public apologies that just didn’t sit well with me.  Most recently being Tiger Woods.  I started putting together a list of things I think need to be part of any apology … this list is focusing on the reconciliation of the situation.  I find it amusing and sometimes disheartening to hear some of the Lame Ass apologies that people will stand in front of a camera and attempt to deliver.  An apology should be the a gesture, one to show whoever you hurt or damaged that you want to work with them towards repairing the relationship, trust, respect … it’s the first step in working together as a team toward one common goal.

1.  Do Not Read – An apology should come from the heart.  When it is time to deliver the apology … you should know what you want to say.  I think it is disrespectful to bury your face into a written note while you tell me how sorry you are for what you have done.  Look me in the eye … I want to see if you truly are sorry!

2.  Use Your Own Words – Do NOT hire or have someone else write your apology.  PR Firms are great for making apologies sound soooo … sterile.  Boring and insincere.  “I would like to apologize to everyone if what I did or said was or could have been misunderstood for something bad … blah blah blah!!!”  I do not want to hear your agency apologize … I want to hear You!

3.  Speak Sincerely (which can not be accomplished when reading from a card) – If you have to apologize, you know what you did … you know what you caused and you know who you have hurt.  If you do not need to apologize – Don’t … however, if you DO need to apologize, sincerity is always key.

4.  Ask For Forgiveness – It’s what you do when you hurt someone.  If you are going to take the time and emotions to sincerely apologize – the least you can do is ask for forgiveness.  This does not mean the other person will, this just means you have admitted what you did, apologized for what you did.  The act of forgiving will be a decision you can not control.  Live with it … learn from it.

5.  Admit What You Did – If you have to apologize, you did something.  If you did something, Admit It!  I really can not stand an apology that starts out like “I am sorry if you misunderstood what I said … ” – NOTHING is more insulting than an apology that points at the other person.  If you were misunderstood … then talk about that, explain what you really meant and apologize for not making yourself or your message clear.

6.  Do Not Excuse – It sounds like this “I am sorry for hurting your feelings, but I had to do it because {insert lame excuse here}. ”  We all know the saying regarding excuses .. and they all stink!  When you excuse an action you admit you can not control your behavior.  It is like when I am playing hockey and get called for a foul … I can tell the ref why things happened the way they did – The other player got in the way, I was going for the puck, I didn’t hit him that hard … more than once I hear the ref tell me “It is your responsibility to remain under control … that includes the way you skate, how you skate and how you control your stick.”

7.  Do Not Place Blame – When you are going to apologize … it is you who needs to apologize.  Nobody else … it is your fault if you have hurt someone – Own Up To IT!  Do not blame anyone else for why you did something.  It’s just lame to place blame – ha ha ha … I had to find some where in here to inject some smiles.

8.  Do Not Justify Why – Just like in #6 … I find it interesting to hear people justify why they did something to hurt me.  Excuses are just weak … justification is a bit different.  I look at it as a story of all the events that led up to You hurting Me!  I really do not want to hear how you got out of bed, stubbed your toe, missed your flight, argued with your wife/husband, stepped in a puddle, got yelled at by your boss … and then you did something to hurt me!  What are you looking for … should I say “Ohhhhhhhh – its OK then.”

9.  Acknowledge The Consequences – You know you did something wrong, you know you are going to ask for forgiveness, you know you hurt someone … please do not be surprised if the other person shares with you how they feel.  It is going to be a rough ride … and sometimes forgiveness does not come for decades.  Understand what the consequences will be.  Be true to yourself when you apologize … and remember why you are in the situation you are in.

10.  Give The Other Person The Ability To Speak – This is by far the hardest … after you have finished your apology, stop … and let the other person absorb it in, ask questions, speak.  I have seen people fake their way through an apology … and when they are done – change the subject.  “OK – since I have apologized … what do you think about St. Louis making it into the playoffs?”  By allowing the other person the opportunity to speak – you help them work through their own feelings and hopefully the two of you can reach forgiveness together.  That my friends … is how a relationship becomes stronger!

I do not think I need to say an apology needs to be face to face … however, when I had Dawn look over this post she mentioned it.  It should go without saying you do NOT text or email an apology … you should not do it over the phone unless it is not possible for those involved to get together.  Delivering an apology is like forgiving … it is not easy to do correctly – but when it IS done correctly … the relationship will always become stronger for it.  What is your stumbling block when you need to apologize … how do you feel when you are on the receiving side of a sincere apology / an insincere apology?  Leave a comment and let me know!

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26 Responses leave one →
  1. Sandi Lincoln permalink
    March 29, 2010

    Good stuff! Had a blow out w the Hubby this past week, he said something very unkind. Took forever for the apology, it was weak and insincere. Ended with “but…” and I left! Like really left, with a bag! Next apology was more heart-felt but excuses and justifications. I started looking for another place to live. Final apology was all of the above–luckily for him, he has other qualities.
    Never underestimate the value of a great apology. Sometimes the other person is just dying to forgive you! 🙂

  2. May 15, 2010

    It’s so hard not to excuse, or turn it around on the other. Like this one I gave to my husband, “I’m sorry you were waiting for me and I made us late, but you didn’t tell me you were going to the car. I thought you were still getting ready to go.” That’s not an apology, it’s an accusation! Needless to say, it did not go over well. Thanks for your list of 10. I should post it on my mirror!

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