A sincere apology can be a powerful statement. It can end disputes, help heal the hurt individual, assist in repairing relationships, and in the best of situations, bring peace.
But in order to succeed, an apology must be sincere. Additionally, it goes without saying, repeating the same offense and thinking the damage can be undone simply by apologizing won’t work either – the person who made the mistake is expected to learn from it and not simply think an apology will wipe the slate clean every time without taking responsibility. Sincerity and responsibility are intertwined.
What are some examples of lame apologies? There are typically bad ones:
- “I’m sorry if you were offended.” – This says that the individual is only sorry because the other person had a negative reaction, but s/he isn’t sorry for their actual statement or action.
- “I’m sorry if your feelings were hurt.” – This says that the individual is sorry only if in fact the person had hurt feelings, but if that turns out not to be the case, s/he isn’t sorry for their actual statement or action.
- “I’m sorry you were offended/your feelings were hurt, but [you said/did [x]/ [x] happened today” etc. – This says that the individual is going through the motions of apologizing, and then deflects responsibility by either coming up with an excuse or placing the blame on the other individual or somewhere else.
A sincere statement sounds more like this:
- “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.”
- “I’m sorry I insulted you.”
- “I’m sorry sorry I said/did [x].”
- “I’m sorry I said/did [x] and [give an explanation if you want, such as “I allowed my anger about x to get away from me” but don’t use it as an excuse].
After you’ve sincerely apologized, don’t assume you’ll automatically be forgiven, and certainly don’t force the other person to accept your apology on the spot; often people need time to deal with their frustration, anger or hurt on their own time frame.