Three actions to take for an apology

I am sorry

I did it

I feel your pain

Make amends

  1. I am sorry: Simple words but critical. If you aren’t really sorry, then that will come through even if you try to lie to block your real feelings. If you struggle with this, then focus on where you do feel sorry, instead of on the reasons you might not feel sorry.
  2. I did it: Accept responsibility. Be directly accountable. The alternatives, which will fall far short of working, include “We all did it.” “I share responsibility.”
  3. I feel your pain: The importance of stating that you recognize the other person has experienced suffering is critical in coming to closure. The expression needs to be direct. Avoid saying anything like, “If I caused you any pain” or “I may have caused you pain.” If there is reason to believe even a small level of pain or suffering is involved assume that it is.
  4. I would like to make amends: Be willing to change, and express that willingness to the other person. Offer some version of repair, then ask if they would like something in particular. Consider if any amends might cause further or new pain and suffering for them, yourself or others. Let go of expectations, trust might be difficult to rebuild and they might refuse any closure. Offers of personal change, money, time, donations are just a few examples of amends. Ask if the offer seems reasonable to them. Replace, repair, re-imburse might be possible. The damage might be impossible to work with. Direct amends, indirect amends and living amends (personal change) can be considered.

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