I have always had a dark sense of humor. What most people find offensive, I find hilarious. This trend influenced other areas of my personality, and so I have lived a lifetime of using profanity, making sick jokes and hurting other people’s feelings as a result. That, in turn, led to issuing a lot of apologies. As a result, I learned how to craft an apology that will make your offendee forget he/she is mad at you and love you.
- Explain to your offendee the you understand what you did wrong and how it has affected them in a negative way.
- Tell your offendee that you are sorry for the misfortune that you caused.
- Explain to your offendee what you will do going forward so as to either make it up or ensure that it does not happen again.
I find this method to be accurate and useful. It covers the ground of empathizing with the offended party, assuring them that you are on their side and that you are taking the initiative to win back their respect. While I have known of this exact method for only a year, I have been using a personalized version of it for several years. Let us now examine some apologies from my past whose structures align with this method.
Back in 2009, I was in a local production of Disney’s Aladdin that required us to attend rehearsals every weeknight from 7 until 9. During one rehearsal, I was in a bad mood and might have mumbled a swear word. The actress that played Princess Jasmine heard me and felt the need to scold me for it. I talked back to her. She scolded me again. We went back and forth for a while until it came to a boiling point. It ended when she told me to shut up and I told her to go fuck herself.
That’s right, folks. I told Princess Jasmine to go fuck herself.
When I returned to rehearsal the next evening, I was told by the Creative Director of the theatre that it would be wise for me to apologize to her. I agreed and I issued the following apology, which is one of my favorites:
“Hey K________, about last night, I didn’t mean to lose it with you. I was not in a favorable state of mind at the moment. I could tell you why I was not in a favorable state of mind, but it really does not matter because what I did was bad. And you are a good person, you don’t deserve that. So, I apologize.”
She accepted my apology. We called each other friends, shook hands and parted ways in peace.
Now, let’s break down my apology into components:
- Opening the communication in a friendly manner.
- Stating the offensive act.
- Giving context to the offending mindset.
- Reminding the offended party that I was aware of my offensive behavior.
- Saying something nice about the offended party.
By opening with a greeting, I made her aware that I wanted to have a civil and friendly discussion. Once she accepted my invitation to communicate, I let her know that I was aware that I had done something wrong and was not proud of it. I began to explain what I was thinking that influenced me to act in that way, but I did not go deeply into it so as not to give her the impression that I was selfish. Furthermore, it is an explanation and not an excuse. Continuing on that arc, with straightforward clarity, I admitted that what I did was bad. The purpose of this was to make sure she knew that I did not approve of my own behavior. I followed that by saying something nice about her character to make her feel good about herself and to assure her that I had no antipathy towards her. My aim was to put her in a good mood so as to increase the likelihood that she would forgive me. Finally, I apologized. And, sure enough, she accepted.
Earlier that same year, I worked with a man whose son caused problems at school on a frequent basis. These problems would require this guy to leave work often to attend to Parent-Teacher conferences. One day, as this guy was on his way out, I asked, in jest but with dry delivery, “So, what has your son done this time?” He explained and then headed out.
I would hear through the grapevine later that he was slightly offended by this. Below is the apology I issued when I saw him the very next morning:
“Hey O_____. Yesterday I made a joke at your son’s expense, and I realized much later that you may not have thought it was funny. The truth is I have met your son, and I think he is cool, so that joke really was in bad taste. So anyway, I apologize. I did not mean to rub you the wrong way.”
He nodded and calmly assured me that all was well. I continued:
“That said, I would like to offer you this token of peace.”
Here, I handed him a large bottle of Dr. Pepper that I had picked up from the gas station on the way to the office. He loves Dr. Pepper. That was all he drank at work – not coffee, not even water. He was elated.
Now, let’s analyze that apology.
- Opening the conversation with the intent of friendly peace.
- Explaining that I was aware of what I did that was wrong.
- Kind words about the offended to assure my sincerity.
- A straightforward statement of my remorse and desire to make amends.
- A thoughtful present given to lighten spirits.
I opened the dialogue by greeting him by name to convey that I wanted to communicate in a civil fashion. Once I had his attention, I explained that I knew that I had done something to cause him feelings of unhappiness. Then, I told him how I really felt about his son and that the way I acted was contrary those feelings. I did this to make him feel good and to elaborate that I was aware of what I done wrong. Having done that, I told him that I was sorry and had not intended to hurt him. Finally, I gave him a gift to show him that my intentions were good and to end the conversation with him feeling extra happy.
Using these examples, you should have a pretty good idea of how to construct a solid apology that engages the target and makes them feel good. While I have made use of a structure that has been effective, not all people are the same. You may have a different delivery style that necessitates a different structure. I encourage you to experiment and come up with a structure (or strategy) that works for you. What I intend for you to get out of this guide is that when you consider the feelings of others and put some work into adding craft to your apologies, you will be able to go far with them.
Let me hear from you.
Are you a pro at apologizing too? Do you have some good stories of apologies you have made? Or do you disagree with me? Leave a reply below and let me know.