Skip to main content

How to Apologize

·3 mins

Trust is damaged whenever a promise is broken or a commitment goes unfulfilled. Yet the damage can often be mitigated somewhat if the offending party offers a sincere apology. The next time you drop the ball, try the following steps to start the process of repairing the relationship and restoring the trust that was lost.

  1. Reiterate the original promise so both parties understand that it wasn’t a lack of clarity about the promise or uncertainty about your commitment that led to the failure.

    “Sara, I promised to have the quarterly sales projections on your desk by noon on Monday.”
  2. Own up to the truth that you broke your promise.

    “Instead, I didn’t get it to you until 10:00 the next morning.”
  3. Ask to know how your failure to keep your promise has affected the other person. This step will likely catch him or her off guard as its rarely done, so you may need to press a bit (gently) to get an answer.

    “What problems did that cause for you?”

    You might hear a response something like, “Well, I had to scramble to get the information from A.J. instead who dropped everything to help me so I could finish my report for the boss.”
  4. Offer to redress the consequences. It may be too late to completely repair the situation, but it is crucial to offer to clean up (or at least help clean up) a mess that you made.

    “I’m sorry. How can I make things right?”

After you have taken these steps, you may be fortunate enough to have the other person offer forgiveness. Forgiveness is itself a promise not to hold a past failure against someone in the future. To apologize is the responsibility of any person who breaks a promise. No one is owed forgiveness after breaking a promise. Forgiveness may come later after the other person has a chance to gauge your sincerity by your future actions.

A Thought to Ponder #

Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.
—Lily Tomlin

Something Delightful #

I’ll never forget the first time I experienced a virtuoso musical performance in person. It was Phil Keaggy, the amazing guitarist, who was clearly able to take whatever sound that developed in his brain and make it flow out of his fingers seemingly without any effort at all. Ever since then I’ve been fascinated by musicians who can create something magical in the moment.

This video of the jazz fusion group Snarky Puppy features a keyboard solo by Corey Henry who displays exactly the same kind of mind-body connection that I saw in Phil Keaggy so many years ago. The whole thing is great, but if you want to skip directly to the solo it starts at 4:18.