A good apology is a superpower. Master it with just 4 simple actions and it can change your life.
Okay, so nobody’s perfect. At some point or other, we all screw up. We’ve lost a borrowed sweater, shouted mean things in anger, or accidentally sideswiped a parked car. What can set you above most other people is the ability to deal with those mistakes quickly, effectively, and confidently.
Wait, seriously? Yep. Knowing how (and when) to admit when you’re wrong and facing it squarely with a good apology—well, it’s power. Power to heal strained relationships, sort out misunderstandings, and persuade hostile forces—be they spouses, friends, foes, in-laws or bosses—to stand down.
Here’s an example. You’re at a bar with friends, three cocktails in. On a group visit to the restroom, you all start talking about another friend who’s not there—her boyfriend problems, her weight gain, etc. Suddenly one of the stalls opens and out she comes. Her eyes streaming tears, she singles you out and shrieks, “I thought you were my friend!”
Obviously, you owe her an apology. Right?
Now, now—no excuses. Never mind that the others joined in the gossip-fest or that what you said was mostly true. That’s just another way of saying, “It wasn’t my fault”—a major stumbling block to any apology.
What matters is the damage is done, and if you care at all about your friendship, you’ll try to make it right, or risk causing more damage and feeling guilty, resentful, and defensive. Once you start crossing the street to avoid someone you’ve offended, it’s downhill from there.
A good apology breaks down into 4 simple steps:
True, it’s not for the faint of heart. A good apology demands self-awareness, honesty, and a big slice of humble pie. We need to own our mistake, recognize the damage it caused, and resolve to make things right.
There are a bajillion ways to cause harm, and we’ve all been there: We pressed send. We went over our boss’s head, humiliating her. We got drunk and ruined our cousin’s wedding. We slept with our ex who’s now married to someone else.
A good apology—well-delivered—can improve your relationships, boost your confidence, and help you feel more hopeful, brave, capable, and in control.
So stop feeling guilty and give it a try. Watch mistrust give way to warmth and forgiveness. Watch hope replace the feeling that nothing will ever change. Enjoy the freedom that comes from a clear conscience—which, as my grandma used to say, is the softest pillow.
Donna Moriarty is a veteran writer, editor and author with a passion for writing, speaking, and listening—the most powerful and enduring forms of human connection. She has written and edited award-winning publications, web content, and marketing materials, and her portfolio includes short fiction and non-fiction, book reviews, and a one-act play. Her first book, Not Just Words: How a Good Apology Makes You Braver, Bolder, and Better at Life, was published in 2018. Follow her on Twitter @demoriarty.