An apology is about taking responsibility for your actions, and it sounds like this: “I’m sorry I yelled at you. I was upset and lost control and I should not have done that.”
Three simple steps:
- Say you are sorry, and mean it. If you don’t mean it, don’t bother apologizing – it’s a waste of everyone’s time.
- Take responsibility for your actions. Don’t blame anyone else, don’t ask them to see it from your point of view. Own what you did.
- Let the person react. They don’t have to forgive you. You fucked up. Give them a moment to deal. An apology doesn’t equal forgiveness – it’s just the first step.
That’s it. And it works for every situation. Granted, some actions are harder and more complex to apologize for than others, but the premise remains the same.
- You missed a social engagement. “Sorry about not showing up for dinner last night. I passed out on the couch and didn’t wake up until after eleven, and by then it was too late. I know you were expecting me to be there, and I’m sorry I didn’t make it."
- You screwed up at work. “I apologize. I made an error that impacted our ability to meet our deadline. Here’s why it happened – blah blah blah – and here’s how I’ll work towards making sure it doesn’t happen again – yippity yappity.”
- You had an affair. “I’m so sorry. I know this is hard to hear, but I met someone. I didn’t look for it, but when it happened, I was overwhelmed and acted on my desire. I’m sorry that I hurt you.”
Or maybe you have a harder truth to share. Maybe you aren’t in love with your partner, you don’t give a shit about your work or you went to another dinner party instead. No one is perfect. We all fuck up sometimes. Making mistakes doesn’t define who we are; how we deal with our mistakes does.