How to Craft the ‘Perfect’ Apology (According to Science)

How to Craft the 'Perfect Apology' (According to Science)

Apologies come in lots of versions – the great ones, the average ones, the ‘why’d you even bother ones’ and the ones that have the anti-inflammatory effect of salt on an open wound.

We all make mistakes. Sometimes the damage can be repaired with a quick, ‘sorry’. Sometimes it will take a lot more. If the mistake is one that brings a richly coloured telling off, or worse – stone cold silence (we’ve all been there), science might have something that can help. New research has found the secrets of a winning apology.

According to the research, for a fighting chance at forgiveness, there are six things to include when apologising:

  1. Expression of regret.
      (‘I’m sorry I ruined your yoga pants.’)
  2. Explanation of what went wrong.
      (‘I thought the tag was kidding about the ‘dry-clean only’ thing.’) (At this point it’s best to keep to yourself your opinions on the practicality of ‘dry-clean only’ yoga pants.)
  3. Acknowledgement of responsibility.
      (‘It was my fault. I should have been more careful.’)
  4. Declaration of repentance.
      (‘I really am so sorry. I was wrong not to pay attention to the care label. I’ll be much more careful in future.’)
  5. Offer of repair
      (‘I’d like to buy you another pair.’)
  6. Request for forgiveness.
      (‘Can you forgive me?’)

A winning apology contains all six components, and the more elements the apology contains, the more effective, credible and adequate the apology will be. 

The research also found that the elements aren’t equal in importance. The most important part of a sincere apology is acknowledging responsibility.

‘Our findings showed that the most important component is an acknowledgement of responsibility. Say it is your fault, that you made a mistake.’ Professor Roy Lewicki, first author, professor emeritus of management and human resources at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.

The next most important is to make an offer to repair the damage.

‘One concern about apologies is that talk is cheap. But by saying, ‘I’ll fix what is wrong,’ you’re committing to take action to undo the damage.’ – Professor Roy Lewicki.

The next most important on the list are expressing regret, explaining what went wrong, and saying that you will repent.

At the bottom of the list was asking for forgiveness. If you are apologising with a sincere, well-thought, well-rounded apology, it’s probably clear enough that you want things to be okay again between you.

Not suprisingly, the researchers also noted that on top of the six spoken elements, the way in which the apology is delivered also makes a difference. Eye contact, emotion, voice inflection, and the expression of sincerity will all contribute to making the apology go the distance.

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“Karen Young - Hey Sigmund has such a wonderful way with words especially around anxiety. This is her latest beautiful picture book that explains anxiety through the lens of the Polyvagal theory using the metaphor of a house. This shows how sometimes anxiety can be hard to notice. I think this book can help kids and teens better understand stress and anxiety. I loved it! This would be great for homes, schools and in libraries.
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Of course we love them, no matter what - but they need to feel us loving them, no matter what. Especially when they are acting in unlovable ways, or saying unlovable things. Especially then.

This is not ‘rewarding bad behaviour’. To think this assumes that they want to behave badly. They don’t. What they want is to feel calm and safe again, but in that moment they don’t have the skills to do that themselves, so they need us to help them. 

It’s leading with love. It’s showing up, even when it’s hard. The more connected they feel to us, the more capacity we will have to lead them - back to calm, into better choices, towards claiming their space in the world kindly, respectfully, and with strength. 

This is not about dropping the boundary, but about holding it lovingly, ‘I can see you’re doing it tough right now. I’m right here. No, I won’t let you [name the boundary]. I’m right here. You’re not in trouble. We’ll get through this together.’

If you’re not sure what they need, ask them (when they are calm), ‘When you get upset/ angry/ anxious, what could I do that would help you feel loved and cared for in that moment? And this doesn’t mean saying ‘yes’ to a ‘no’ situation. What can I do to make the no easier to handle? What do I do that makes it harder?’♥️
Believe them AND believe in them. 

‘Yes this is hard. I know how much you don’t want to do this. It feels big doesn’t it. And I know you can do big things, even when it feels like you can’t. How can I help?’

They won’t believe in themselves until we show them what they are capable of. For this, we’ll have to believe in their ‘can’ more than they believe in their ‘can’t’.♥️
Sometimes it feels as though how we feel directs what we do, but it also works the other way: What we do will direct how we feel. 

When we avoid, we feel more anxious, and a bigger need to avoid. But when we do brave - and it only needs to be a teeny brave step - we feel brave. The braver we do, the braver we feel, and the braver we do… This is how we build brave - with tiny, tiny uncertain steps. 

So, tell me how you feel. All feelings are okay to be there. Now tell me what you like to do if your brave felt a little bigger. What tiny step can we take towards that. Because that brave is always in you. Always. And when you take the first step, your brave will rise bigger to meet you.♥️
#anxietyinkids #consciousparenting #parentingtips #gentleparent #parentinglife #mindfulparenting #childanxiety #heywarrior
If anxiety has had extra big teeth lately, I know how brutal this feels. I really do. Think of it as the invitation to strengthen your young ones against anxiety. It’s not the disappearance of brave, or the retreat of brave. It’s the invitation to build their brave.

This is because the strengthening against anxiety happens only with experience. When the experience is in front of you, it can feel like bloodshed. I know that. I really do. But this is when we fight for them and with them - to show them they can do this.

The need to support their avoidance can feel relentless. But as long as they are safe, we don’t need to hold them back. We’ll want to, and they’ll want us to, but we don’t need to. 

Handling the distress of anxiety IS the work. Anxiety isn’t the disruption to building brave, it’s the invitation to build brave. As their important adult who knows they are capable, strong, and brave, you are the one to help them do that.

The amygdala only learns from experience - for better or worse. So the more they avoid, the more the amygdala learns that the thing they are avoiding is ‘unsafe’, and it will continue to drive a big fight (anger, distress) or flight (avoidance) response. 

On the other hand, when they stay with the discomfort of anxiety - and they only need to stay with it for a little longer each time (tiny steps count as big steps with anxiety) - the amygdala learns that it’s okay to move forward. It’s safe enough.

This learning won’t happen quickly or easily though. In fact, it will probably get worse before it gets better. This is part of the process of strengthening them against anxiety, not a disruption to it. 

As long as they are safe, their anxiety and the discomfort of that anxiety won’t hurt them. 
What’s important making sure they don’t feel alone in their distress. We can do this with validation, which shows our emotional availability. 

They also need to feel us holding the boundary, by not supporting their avoidance. This sends the message that we trust their capacity to handle this.

‘I know this feels big, and I know you can do this. What would feel brave right now?’♥️

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