The 4 Steps to an Effective Apology

false-apologies4-1024x8041Public Relations has got to be one of my favorite classes I have ever taken. Last week, my professor let us in on a very important secret: How to apologize.

I know it sounds completely elementary. We are all taught at a very young age to “say sorry” when we hurt someone’s feelings. We didn’t know that at this age, we would still be hurting people’s feelings, and we would still need to get ourselves out of it. While sitting in class, I watched the four steps of an effective apology dance across the screen, and I couldn’t believe how obvious it all was! The four steps to an effective apology are as follows:

  • Acknowledge your wrongdoing
  • Explain
  • Show Regret
  • Give Plans For Reparation

Acknowledge your wrongdoing: There’s a good chance that  you’re apologizing because you are wrong. Just make it known. You’re admitting fault and you can’t place blame on anyone besides yourself. Nobody cares about half-apologies. If you’re doing this, the first step is to take full ownership of the mistake. If the audience feels you don’t deserve the full blame, let them make that decision. Say you were wrong. Admit your bad judgement. You made a mistake, just say it!

Explain: This might be the hardest part, but it’s important. Explain where you were coming from when you made the mistake. Ask yourself why you did it. Was it to save money? Was it to avoid extra work? Explain. People appreciate honesty. You should put some effort into your explanation, and be careful in what you say.

Show regret: You need to show that this will not happen again. At the end of the day, your audience needs to know that if you were given the chance, you wouldn’t make the same mistake. The whole point of this apology is to gain respect and forgiveness from your audience. Do what it takes to make them believe you. Your regret needs to seem like an individual, original experience. This needs to be real emotion, or it at least needs to appear that way. You can’t only say it. Show that you are sorry.

Give plans for reparation: This is the final part of your apology. You’re almost there! You admitted you were wrong, you explained yourself and you showed regret. What are you going to do to fix it? How much do you care? Tell your audience that you will do whatever it takes to re-gain their trust. Come up with possible reparations on on your own. It might be as easy as buying someone lunch. It might take a big favor, or an expensive commitment to regain their trust. Tell them you’ll do it. Your apology isn’t complete until you’ve offered to fix it.

Apologizing is quite simple, but you must hit all four steps! Keeping them in mind, watch this apology form President Bill Clinton, and leave a comment on your thoughts!