I have to ask for forgiveness a lot. I’m one of those people who finds themselves in trouble from time to time. I make mistakes. I get ahead of myself… and others. You know how it is.
Have you ever had someone trying to apologize to you say something like, “I’m sorry for doing _________ ” and the next thing they say is, “… but if you hadn’t of done ______ than I wouldn’t have gotten upset.” The apology is ruined by the immediate justification for what they just did. This is just one of many ways to short-change an adequate apology.
Thanks to one of my professors, I have an excellent method of apologizing because it is important to apologize well.
3 R’s: Responsible, Regret, Resolve.
Begin by stating what you were responsible for. You can’t apologize for something that wasn’t your fault or you had no control over. However, you can begin by stating what you knew you were responsible to accomplish. Let’s say for example that it was your job to take out the recycling by Friday. It’s now Sunday and that overflowing heap of bags, bottles, and boxes is still simmering. BEGIN BY OWNING WHAT YOU SAID YOU WOULD DO: “I said that I would responsible for taking out the recycling by Friday.” Stop.
Here is where you continue by saying what you are sorry for. What didn’t happen that was supposed to happen? Or what happened that was not supposed to happen? Be clear and concise. “I’m sorry for the stuff I didn’t do.” may come across as a little vague and possibly insincere. To continue with our recycling example: “I’m sorry, and I regret that I didn’t take out the recycling by Friday when I said I would.” Stop.
The proof of a sincere apology is in the reformed future behavior. Saying, “I’m sorry.” is good. Clearly stating what you intend to do differently in the future is powerful. It gets the best practice out in the open. You hear it. The offended person hears you say sit.
You let yourself be held accountable to the one you just hurt. No big, long soliloquies necessary. Again, to use our recycling example: “From here on I am going to make sure that I get the recycling done by the time I say I will.” Stop.
To put the recycling apology all together:
“I said that I would be responsible for taking out the recycling by Friday. I’m sorry, and I regret that I didn’t take out the recycling by Friday when I said I would. From here on, I am going to make sure that I get the recycling done by the time I say I will.”
From here the ball is in their court. They can forgive. They can take their time. You have apologized. If you find yourself trying to apologize outside the umbrella of “I was Responsible…, I Regret…, I Resolve to…” you may want to start again.
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