How to Apologise So People Actually Forgive You

How to Apologise So People Actually Forgive You
Contributor: Lifehacker Australia

The best apologies come from a place of true self-reflection and understanding. You did something wrong, you get why it was wrong, and you want to make a change for the better. 

You can never really guarantee that someone will forgive your shitty behaviour if you’ve made a mistake, but there are some things to keep in mind when apologising that will make it more likely you’ll get a positive response. Overall, it’s best to be patient, but Reddit user u/CyberneticPanda started a thread about how they try to get to the point and give well-thought-out apologies:

If you make a mistake, admit to the mistake, apologise, and explain what steps you’ll take to prevent it from happening again in the future. It’s very hard for people to yell at you if you’ve done that.

Both professionally and in my personal life, I know a bunch of people that refuse to admit to having made a mistake. When I mess up (and we all do at some point) I just own up to it right away. By accepting responsibility, apologi[s]ing, and saying what I’ll do to keep it from happening again, I not only avoid getting a lecture about whatever I did wrong, I also get thanked by my boss/friend/whoever.

If you’ve messed up, admit it right away and say what you’ll do better in the future. Then actually commit to doing better; allow people to see that you care about making a change. It’s respectful of the people you hurt, and it also offers space for you all to move forward (though it may take time).

In addition to the above, ReachOut shares that it’s important to be specific about what you’re apologising for. That way it doesn’t seem like you’re skirting around the issue. The organisation also shares that you should acknowledge the person’s feelings. If you upset them, recognise that and give those emotions some respect. Don’t minimise or suggest they’re overreacting; it’s dismissive and petty.

If you need it broken down further, here’s a little apology recipe for you.

  • Acknowledge what you did and be specific about it
  • Recognise the person/people’s feelings and why what you did was wrong
  • Say you’re sorry (yes, actually say it)
  • Highlight how you’ll do better going forward
  • Be better

In work scenarios, however, taking responsibility is a tactic that doesn’t always work like it does with friends and family who love you — you’re just trying to get through the day and keep your job. There is a hidden danger to this strategy, as u/Ahrotahntee_ wrote:

Taking responsibility for mistakes is one of the traits of a good employee.

However! You need to keep in mind that there are situations in every career where you’ll be confronted about something that you could have prevented but was not directly your responsibility.

You need be sure the issue is something you should be apologi[s]ing for, and not attributing to its source; otherwise you will become a scapegoat.

There are lots of things that a person can do to prevent those around you from making mistakes; but it is not always your responsibility to mitigate those risks.

Basically, beware of making yourself the office problem child.

But it’s still good advice if you want to move on more than you want to be right. Nothing compounds an error like making the injured party do all the work to make things better. Take the initiative, and you’ll be much, much closer to forgiveness.

And for the love of all that’s holy, don’t serve up a weak “sorry if you’re offended” mouthful of garbage when ‘apologising’. It never goes down well, because it’s gaslighty and insincere. You may as well double-down on the offending behavior instead.

This article has been updated since its original publish date. 

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