How to Effectively Apologize Saying "I'm sorry" just doesn't cut it. Use these 10 tips to really show how you feel. BY DIANE GOTTSMAN
Wishing the issue will go away is never as effective as a sincere apology.
It seems like every time we turn on the television or stand in a grocery line we are bombarded with images of movie stars and public figures breaking up or asking for forgiveness for an affair or a variety of miscellaneous offenses. To make light of infidelity would be insensitive, but to watch some of the same public figures doing the same thing over and over again is a tell tale sign of someone who is not sorry for their actions.
On varying levels, we can all relate to the feelings of hurt and betrayal, especially when the person who has caused the pain is our spouse. If hurt feelings are not acknowledged, the end result can often be damaging and destructive to the marriage. Whether the action is an egregious offense such as infidelity or a minor infraction such as forgetting to take out the trash, knowing how to say, "Iím sorry" is a very important element in the healing process. A sincere apology takes time, thought and effort.
Here are some simple, yet effective ways to really make an apology the right way.
1. An apology should be offered in person, face-to-face, in a quiet place with little disturbance. Your undivided time and attention is necessary when offering a heartfelt apology. Pick a time of day that you do not have get back to work or pick up the kids from school. Conversation after an apology is generally a relationship builder.
2. Focus on the other personís feelings and needs. Remember that the apology is not about how bad you feel, but about how your actions have harmed the other person.
3. Be ready to offer a plan of action, such as counseling or behavior modification to rectify the situation. Admitting guilt, showing remorse and offering a promise of change should always accompany an apology.
4. Donít trivialize the damage. Just because the offense was not significant to you doesnít mean itís not worthy of an apology. "Itís not a big deal" is not a good response when attempting to make amends with your spouse.
5. Excuses are not welcome in a heartfelt apology. Any time an apology ends with "but" the entire effort is negated. "Iím sorry that you feel this way" is a thinly veiled translation of, "Iím not doing anything to change."
6. Always include the reason for the apology. Doing this shows you are taking responsibility for your actions and are aware of the behavior that caused pain.
7. Donít expect immediate forgiveness. "How many times do I need to say Iím sorry?" is not an empathetic question. By the way, the answer is, "As long as it takes!" An apology does not immediately right the wrong.
8. In the case of an affair, your world is no longer off limits. Understand that you may have apologized, but the trust is broken. Until you have proven otherwise, your e-mail, cell phone and friendships are an open book. Perhaps not forever, but for now.
9. An apology does not have a lifetime warranty. Just because you apologized once about one situation doesnít mean that you donít ever have to apologize again for other reasons. Saying, "Iím sorry" is a character builder and has the power to build relationships and heal friendships.
10. Ask how you can make the situation better. By saying, "What can I do to fix this?" you are expressing your desire to atone for your lack of good judgment or thoughtless behavior.
A well thought out apology can save a job, repair a friendship and heal a broken marriage. Follow these simple rules and forgiveness will follow.
Diane Gottsman, a nationally recognized etiquette expert, is the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in etiquette training for corporations, universities and individuals, striving to polish their interpersonal skills. You can reach Diane at 877-490-1077 or www.protocolschooloftexas.com.