The Best Way to Say You're Sorry

There comes a time in all our lives when we have a solemn duty to apologize for something we have said or done.

Often, it takes more than a simple, albeit heartfelt, "I'm sorry," to truly express your regret.

Researchers from The Ohio State University and Eastern Kentucky University have identified six components to an apology. The more of these you include, the more effective your apology will be.

How to say you're sorry in six steps:
1. Expression of regret
2. Explanation of what went wrong
3. Acknowledgment of responsibility
4. Declaration of repentance
5. Offer of repair
6. Request for forgiveness

If you're in a hurry, there are two elements of these six that are the most crucial for having your apology accepted:

  • Acknowledgement of responsibility
  • Offer of repair

"Our findings showed that the most important component is an acknowledgement of responsibility. Say it is your fault, that you made a mistake," says Roy Lewicki, lead author of the study and professor emeritus of management and human resources at The Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business.

And then offer to repair the damage. "One concern about apologies is that talk is cheap," Lewicki added. "But by saying, 'I'll fix what is wrong,' you're committing to take action to undo the damage."

The least effective element of an apology is a request for forgiveness. "That's the one you can leave out if you have to," Lewicki said.

This research has been published in the journal Negotiation and Conflict Management Research.

--From the Editors at Netscape

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