Where the Science of Psychology Meets the Art of Being Human

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

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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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Hey Warrior - A book about anxiety in children.








Hey Sigmund on Instagram

Our kids are going to make bad decisions. Hopefull Our kids are going to make bad decisions. Hopefully they’ll make plenty - it’s one of the ways they’ll learn and grow. We won’t always be able to love them out of a bad decision, but we want to be the ones they come to when the mess unfolds. 
When they get it really wrong, they’ll know it. They’ll also know exactly what we think. Of course we’ll be tempted to remind them over and over of what they’ve done and the fallout from that, but it will be useless. There is no new wisdom in telling them ‘I told you so’, and it also runs the risk of switching them off to our influence and guidance at a time they need it most. 
There will be wisdom in the mess for sure, and the best way to foster the discovery is to make a safe space for this to happen - and there is no safer space than in their connection with you. 
When we prioritise connection above lectures, criticism, or judgement, we clear the path for self-reflection. This is where the magic happens. When they feel safe with us, and free from shame or disconnection, we have enormous power to facilitate growth - ‘Can you tell me what happened? I know you’re a great kid and I’m wondering what made this feel like a good decision? What can you do differently next time? I know you didn’t mean for this to happen but it has, and I’m wondering how you might put things right? Do you need my help with that?’ When we strip it back to bare, discipline was always meant to be about teaching, and this will never happen when there is shame or when they feel disconnected from us. You are their everything. They don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to disappoint you - but they will, lots of times. 
With every one of their bad decisions is an opportunity to guide them towards growth, but only if we keep them close and hold their hearts gently amidst the breakage. When we keep their hearts open to us, they will open their minds and their mouths too. They will talk and they will listen, and they will know that even when their behaviour is ‘questionable’, they are our everything too.

Our kids are going to make bad decisions. Hopefully they’ll make plenty - it’s one of the ways they’ll learn and grow. We won’t always be able to love them out of a bad decision, but we want to be the ones they come to when the mess unfolds.
When they get it really wrong, they’ll know it. They’ll also know exactly what we think. Of course we’ll be tempted to remind them over and over of what they’ve done and the fallout from that, but it will be useless. There is no new wisdom in telling them ‘I told you so’, and it also runs the risk of switching them off to our influence and guidance at a time they need it most.
There will be wisdom in the mess for sure, and the best way to foster the discovery is to make a safe space for this to happen - and there is no safer space than in their connection with you.
When we prioritise connection above lectures, criticism, or judgement, we clear the path for self-reflection. This is where the magic happens. When they feel safe with us, and free from shame or disconnection, we have enormous power to facilitate growth - ‘Can you tell me what happened? I know you’re a great kid and I’m wondering what made this feel like a good decision? What can you do differently next time? I know you didn’t mean for this to happen but it has, and I’m wondering how you might put things right? Do you need my help with that?’ When we strip it back to bare, discipline was always meant to be about teaching, and this will never happen when there is shame or when they feel disconnected from us. You are their everything. They don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to disappoint you - but they will, lots of times.
With every one of their bad decisions is an opportunity to guide them towards growth, but only if we keep them close and hold their hearts gently amidst the breakage. When we keep their hearts open to us, they will open their minds and their mouths too. They will talk and they will listen, and they will know that even when their behaviour is ‘questionable’, they are our everything too.
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