The Art of Saying Sorry

It can sometimes be the hardest word to say, but done effectively, can resolve tough situations. Here is how to say sorry.

“It’s sad, so sad

 Why can’t we talk it over?

 Ohh, it seems to me

 That sorry seems to be the hardest word” 

These are some of the verses of the well-known song by Elton John, Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word, is one of Elton’s most famous songs. 

Indeed, sometimes asking for forgiveness could be the hardest thing. The reason could be because you don’t know exactly how to say it. But did you know that you have to follow some steps when it comes to asking for forgiveness?

Psychologists Steven J. Scher & John M. Darley, in their academic work named How Effective Are the Things People Say to Apologize? Effects of the Realization of the Apology Speech Act, presented a four-step framework that people can use to apologise. 


Express Remorse for a Mistake

You should start your remorse by saying “I’m sorry” or “I apologise”. If you say ‘I’m sorry but..’ you are losing the point. 

By using ‘but’ in the same sentence you are justifying your actions. You have to be honest with yourself in the first place and afterwards with the other person. Your words should be authentic and truly honest. 

When you are expressing your remorse for a mistake, be careful with promises you might make. Because of guilty feelings, you can make promises to things that you cannot fulfil.


Admit Responsibility

You have to take responsibility for the actions that you are responsible for. If you mix apologies with explanations and justifications, you are doing everything wrong. 

Taking responsibility when it comes to admitting your mistakes, shows that you also have the will to change and not to repeat that action. 

If you empathise with their frustrations, the other person can feel that and forgive you.


Make Amends

Some people would consider it as a complete apology by expressing their remorse and admitting their responsibilities, but it’s not. 

They still miss two key aspects. One of them is to make amends. Promise to others that you can do something in return. 

You can offer something that is directly related to how you upset them in the first place. You have to be careful not to make amends that you cannot keep.


Promise That It Won’t Happen Again

If you pass the three other stages when asking for forgiveness, now you are ready to make a promise. 

The promise should be that you won’t allow that thing to happen again. Promises are easier said than done, so be sure you honour this commitment to prove your trustworthiness.


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