How do you make good apologies? I know I have spoken to you before about certain words that you may want to use (and particular words that you may want to avoid) when you are negotiating with people. Apologizing is not that dissimilar to negotiation, except there needs to be some sincerity involved – you need to really sound like you mean what you’re saying. So here are the top three things that people do wrong when they apologize.
Number one: using the word ‘but’. When you use the word ‘but’ it overrides everything that came before the ‘but’ and makes everything that comes after the ‘but’ sounds more important. For example, if I said to you ‘I’m really sorry about what happened but you shouldn’t have been that way because if you weren’t that way then I wouldn’t have had to have responded to you in the way that I responded to you and that’s not even my fault’. Did you notice how everything AFTER the ‘but’ starts to sound a bit more dramatic and a bit more all about me again? It was basically just a ton of excuses, and that is going to take away from the authenticity of your apology. If you want your apology to sound like you mean it, and to sound sincere and authentic, then you’ve got to avoid the word ‘but’.
Number two: your intonation. Your tone of voice needs to correspond with what you are saying. If I were to apologize to you sounding really bored and reluctant and stroppy then it doesn’t sound like I really mean what I’m saying. The tone of my voice is carrying a different message to the words that I’m saying. When you’re apologizing you need your tone of voice to match up with the words that you’re saying; you need to sound sincere and authentic.
Number three: forgetting your apology straight away. Something that you will wish to avoid is making it sound as though you are only sorry for how the person is feeling and avoiding taking responsibility for your actions. This might sound something like this – ‘I’m really sorry that you feel that way about what happened, and I’m sorry that you interpreted my actions in that way. That’s not really how I wanted things to work out so I’m really sorry that you’re feeling the way that you’re feeling about it’. What that’s doing is really disregarding any ownership that you have for how the other person is feeling. A real apology would acknowledge your part in how the other person is feeling and that you are sorry for your actions.
These are the three things that I would encourage you to avoid if you are wanting to make a really sincere apology. Look at the language that you use and look at the tone way you say it. The words and the tone need to ooze sincerity and authenticity in order for that person to really feel that you ARE actually sorry for what you’ve done.