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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Separation anxiety can come with a tail whip - not only does it swipe at kids, but it will so often feel brutal for their important adults too.

If your child struggle to separate at school, or if bedtimes tougher than you’d like them to be, or if ‘goodbye’ often come with tears or pleas to stay, or the ‘fun’ from activities or play dates get lost in the anxiety of being away from you, I hear you.

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The more we treat anxiety as a problem, or as something to be avoided, the more we inadvertently turn them away from the safe, growthful, brave things that drive it. 

On the other hand, when we make space for anxiety, let it in, welcome it, be with it, the more we make way for them to recognise that anxiety isn’t something they need to avoid. They can feel anxious and do brave. 

As long as they are safe, let them know this. Let them see you believing them that this feels big, and believing in them, that they can handle the big. 

‘Yes this feels scary. Of course it does - you’re doing something important/ new/ hard. I know you can do this. How can I help you feel brave?’♥️
I’ve loved working with @sccrcentre over the last 10 years. They do profoundly important work with families - keeping connections, reducing clinflict, building relationships - and they do it so incredibly well. @sccrcentre thank you for everything you do, and for letting me be a part of it. I love what you do and what you stand for. Your work over the last decade has been life-changing for so many. I know the next decade will be even more so.♥️

In their words …
Posted @withregram • @sccrcentre Over the next fortnight, as we prepare to mark our 10th anniversary (28 March), we want to re-share the great partners we’ve worked with over the past decade. We start today with Karen Young of Hey Sigmund.

Back in 2021, when we were still struggling with covid and lockdowns, Karen spoke as part of our online conference on ‘Strengthening the relationship between you & your teen’. It was a great talk and I’m delighted that you can still listen to it via the link in the bio.

Karen also blogged about our work for the Hey Sigmund website in 2018. ‘How to Strengthen Your Relationship With Your Children and Teens by Understanding Their Unique Brain Chemistry (by SCCR)’, which is still available to read - see link in bio.

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I often go into schools to talk to kids and teens about anxiety and big feelings. 

I always ask, ‘Who’s tried breathing through big feels and thinks it’s a load of rubbish?’ Most of them put their hand up. I put my hand up too, ‘Me too,’ I tell them, ‘I used to think the same as you. But now I know why it didn’t work, and what I needed to do to give me this powerful tool (and it’s so powerful!) that can calm anxiety, anger - all big feelings.’

The thing is though, all powertools need a little instruction and practice to use them well. Breathing is no different. Even though we’ve been breathing since we were born, we haven’t been strong breathing through big feelings. 

When the ‘feeling brain’ is upset, it drives short shallow breathing. This is instinctive. In the same ways we have to teach our bodies how to walk, ride a bike, talk, we also have to teach our brains how to breathe during big feelings. We do this by practising slow, strong breathing when we’re calm. 

We also have to make the ‘why’ clear. I talk about the ‘why’ for strong breathing in Hey Warrior, Dear You Love From Your Brain, and Ups and Downs. Our kids are hungry for the science, and they deserve the information that will make this all make sense. Breathing is like a lullaby for the amygdala - but only when it’s practised lots during calm.♥️
When it’s time to do brave, we can’t always be beside them, and we don’t need to be. What we can do is see them and help them feel us holding on, even in absence, while we also believe in their brave.♥️

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