When I wake up in the morning, one of the first things I do is read the news. Often, a politician or celebrity is apologizing. Whether it was Chris Brown for his behavior on Good Morning America, Kristen Stewart for cheating on her boyfriend Robert Pattison or Tiger Woods for his affairs with multiple women. With online traffic increasing dramatically to websites, such as theperfectapology.com and imsorry.com, apologizing is in fashion.
Obviously, the word “sorry” does not quite cut it if you have intentionally slept with your best friend’s boyfriend or accidentally run over their pet. On the other hand, if you canceled dinner plans with a friend because you’ve been asked on a hot date or you accidentally missed your son’s football game, “sorry” is your only way out.
There is an art to a proper apology. Research has shown that apologizing in a heartfelt way can help you to reduce stress and alleviate guilt. Here are five simple steps to help you apologize:
1. Take responsibility. Know that if someone is upset with you, it is likely for a good reason. Take the time to reflect on what you might have done to upset them. If you haven’t done anything wrong, then don’t apologize. But, if you have, proceed to step two.
2. Apologize immediately. If you have done something inappropriate, don’t try to justify your position in your mind. Let the other person know immediately that you didn’t mean to upset them. Ideally, doing this face-to-face is most powerful or by phone if they live far away. Avoid doing it in an email or through Facebook.
3. Acknowledge they are upset. Be clear about what you are sorry about. Acknowledge how your lack of awareness has upset them. If you need to explain yourself, only do it to show that you didn’t mean to upset them. Do not try to bring out the pity card, make yourself feel better or to wiggle yourself out of making the apology.
4. Ask for forgiveness. When you ask for forgiveness, let them know that you will not do it again. If they do accept your apology, say thank you and move on.
5. Forgive yourself. If they don’t accept your apology, then there is nothing more you can do. Whether they do or don’t accept your apology, you must let it go. Guilt is only going to harm you internally, so forgive yourself.
If you feel that the circumstance deserves compensation, then do what is appropriate. On the odd occasion you might want to send flowers, take them for dinner or if the situation requires extreme measures, don’t be afraid to lay prostrate on the floor, hang on to their legs and beg for forgiveness. This is a tactic I sometimes use to great effect with my husband. In any case, remember what Alexander Pope said: “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”