I’m Sorry!

Apologizing is not as simple as saying “I’m sorry.” Truly thoughtful apologies repair and rebuild relationships but thoughtless or insincere apologies may do more harm than good.

Think of the last time you apologized for something you said or did. What words did you speak?  Were they heartfelt and honest? Did your voice tone and body language send the same or a different message than your words?  Were excuses and justifications mixed in with your apology?

The way in which we apologize says a lot about our character. Do we accept full responsibly for the things we say and do or do we feel the need to explain the reason for our actions by pointing fingers? Do the words coming out of our mouths have real meaning or are we just apologizing because it’s expected of us?

We all make mistakes. No one’s perfect. But how we rebound from those mistakes and apologize for our behavior will play a critical role in the impressions we make and the respect we have from our friends, family and co-workers. If done correctly your apology will make a lasting impression and distinguish you as someone who accepts responsibility for your actions.

My wife and I have four children. So you can imagine there have been numerous times when we’ve had to remind them about how to give a proper apology. Today’s tips are based upon the lessons we have taught our children over the years and I give my wife full credit for helping all of us learn how to make things right.

Don’t Justify Your Actions Or Make Excuses

Don’t make the common mistake of giving an explanation or a justification when you apologize. It will cheapen and discount your apology.

The best way to apologize is to accept responsibility for your actions and start with the obvious words, “I’m sorry.” This won’t be easy, especially if your regrettable actions were in response to someone else’s actions. It takes a strong person to accept responsibility for their actions and not justify them. You are in control of your actions and blaming others is just a lame excuse.

Mean What You Say

Be genuine and honest. If you try to fake your way through an apology, people will see right through it and it will only make the situation worse. If you have done something you shouldn’t have done or said something you shouldn’t have said, you have just made a negative impression.

An insincere apology is like pounding that negative impression in their head with a hammer.  It’s a sure way to lose someone’s respect.

Focus on making sure your tone and body language send the same messages as the words you speak.  It’s also helpful to include some specifics in your apology beyond the words “I’m sorry”. Acknowledging what you did wrong conveys that you really understand the impact of your words or actions.

You may need a little time to pass to collect your thoughts before delivering a genuine apology but don’t let the clock run out. When you know you need to apologize for something, the sooner you can do it effectively, the better.

Ask For Forgiveness

After you have apologized, then seek forgiveness. Offer to make amends if appropriate. And then hopefully the other person will agree to forgive you and you both can move on. It takes a strong person to apologize as I have described but doing so will be bring closure to your mistake and potentially restore a damaged relationship.

You can imagine what comes next.  Who needs an apology from you?  Do you have any damaged relationships? TODAY’s challenge is to make a call or set up an appointment with someone who you have wronged, offended or misguided. Think about the words you will use and the way you will deliver those words. Will you accept the challenge?

If you have any contributions to this post, please share them in the comments section below this post on www.littlethingsmatter.com.

“An apology is the superglue of life.  It can repair just about anything.”- Lynn Johnston

About the Author: Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 30 years and founder of Little Things Matter. To receive Todd’s daily lessons, subscribe here. All Todd’s lessons are also available on iTunes as downloadable podcasts. (Todd’s podcasts are ranked #27 in America’s top 100 podcasts and #1 in the personal and development field.)

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  • Bill

    Great lesson in character building. When we deliver a true, meaningful, sincere apology we build self esteem and trust in the relationship.

  • Hi Bill,

    Great addition.

    Thanks!

    Todd

  • AccuConference

    My husband and I have been working on this apologizing thing. We both have a bad habit of saying "I'm sorry XYZ happened but it was only because ABC...!" It's not really an apology when you are defending your actions. I've learned that a really good apology usually starts not with "I'm sorry" but with "I understand that XYZ made you feel ABC" and then "here's what I'm willing to do to make sure that doesn't happen again."

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