If You’re Sorry, Here’s How to Say It


Apology

You’ve probably seen at least one cringe-worthy “apology” statement from a company CEO after the organization got caught for bad behavior.

And we put the “apology” in quote marks because the word “sorry” doesn’t seem to make an appearance, or it’s tucked into a “sorry if we offended anyone” sort of phrase (which isn’t really an apology).

One thing is for sure: There’s a big difference between a real apology and a #sorrynotsorry apology. A major component is authenticity in the statement. And people (read: customers) can tell the difference.

Grammar Girl recently posted this list of four types of apologies to avoid, along with a template to follow for an authentic apology.

Luckily, there’s a foolproof template you can use. And the template’s not a trick. If you follow it step by step, it helps you explain clearly what you did and understand how you affected someone else. Rather than having you “fill in the blanks,” it helps you find the words to say what you really mean.

We got the idea for this template from Professor Aaron Lazare, and his book “On Apology.” Dr. Lazare explains that a genuine expression of remorse should include these components:

  1. Acknowledging the offense clearly
  2. Explaining it effectively
  3. Restoring the offended parties’ dignity
  4. Assuring them they’re safe from a repeat offense
  5. Expressing shame and humility
  6. Making appropriate reparation

This may seem a little much if you’re apologizing for a small offense, like eating the last of someone’s ice cream, but we’ve found that the little offenses sometimes sting the most. Eating someone’s ice cream becomes a proxy for how little respect you have for them. Or how few boundaries you have. Or how you’re a taker and not a giver.

Hopefully you aren’t in a position where you have to publicly apologize for something. But, even if you just need to say “sorry” to someone in your personal life and are having a hard time figuring out the right way to do it, we hope this guide helps get you back in good graces.

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