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Making Amends: The Art of Crafting Apologies That Actually Work

Friday, February 23rd 2024 10:00am 2 min read
Dr. Jessica Peatross dr.jess.md @drjessmd

Hospitalist & top functional MD who gets to the root cause. Stealth infection & environmental toxicity keynote speaker.

If you’ve been confined to your home with family members over the past year, it’s likely that you’ve occasionally irritated each other. Under stress, it’s common to speak harshly or react angrily towards those we care about. We all sometimes make careless mistakes, like breaking a commitment or damaging something.

Wondering whether to apologize?

Even if you feel your actions or words weren’t severe, or if you think the other person is more at fault, it’s crucial to apologize when you’ve upset or angered someone. To maintain or restore relationships, it’s essential to set aside notions of right and wrong and instead try to comprehend the other person’s perspective. This approach is a fundamental aspect of emotional intelligence, which is vital for nurturing healthy, productive relationships.

How to Offer a Genuine Apology

An effective apology must be sincere. It should acknowledge that the other person was offended and take responsibility for causing them pain. Your apology should express genuine regret, show concern for the person harmed, and include a commitment to prevent similar incidents in the future, as illustrated in the following examples.

According to the late psychiatrist Dr. Aaron Lazare, a renowned apology specialist and former chancellor and dean of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, a good apology comprises four components:

  1. Acknowledge the offense. Accept responsibility for the harm, whether physical or emotional, and recognize that your behavior was inappropriate. Avoid vague or evasive language, and don’t phrase the apology in a way that downplays the offense or doubts the victim’s feelings.
  2. Clarify what happened. The challenge is to explain the offense without justifying it. Sometimes, admitting there is no excuse is the best approach.
  3. Express remorse. If you feel regretful, ashamed, or humiliated, say so: this is crucial for showing sincere remorse.
  4. Promise to make amends. For instance, if you damaged someone’s property, repair or replace it. If someone’s feelings were hurt, acknowledge their pain and pledge to be more considerate in the future.

Crafting a Heartfelt Apology

The language you use in your apology is important. Here are examples of effective and ineffective apologies.

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