The article 7 Ways to Give an Apology and 4 Ways to Accept One got some terrific attention from readers on this blog and on PsychCentral's World of Psychology it rose to top ten most popular posts when it was published there. Thank you to everyone who wrote thoughtful and helpful responses. I learn so much from your comments. They add quality and value to the original article, continuing a conversation that is rich and instructive. You
all have certainly done that! Here are a few of my favorites from the apology article.
Steve wrote: Love the article! The only thing I would add is that when you make an apology don’t
include excuses. I think its normal because we want the other person to
know why we let them down but don’t do it. Just apologize.
All too often people say “sorry” but then they have a million
reasons why they screwed up which kinda turns into “it really wasn’t my
So for me when I have to swallow my pride and apologize I don’t
offer any excuses unless the person who was offended asks. Even then I
think its important not to try to shift blame away from yourself but it
is reasonable to explain the circumstances. However that’s only if they
That’s just my two cents.
My response: What you say is brilliant. Whatever follows, “I’m sorry, BUT…” often
effectively wipes out any good intention there was in the original
apology. Unfortunately I see this a lot in couples therapy. Thanks for
pointing out that staying with the discomfort of one simple “I’m sorry”
in its purest form is worth a king’s ransom of excuses.
Dan wrote: Whatever you do, DON’T say, “I’m sorry IF I offended you,” or, “I
apologize IF you got upset,” or, “I’m sorry to anyone I MAY have
offended.” While “I’m sorry” can be the two most disarming words in the
English language, they may not be qualified in any way or the apology
is totally insincere.
My response: Dan, You said it. This is sort of a variation on what Steve said and I
agree. Errant politicians in particular seem to think they can get away
with the qualified apology. Thank you for setting us straight.
And Tanya wrote: Dr.
Aletta, I'd like to know what has happened to the social apology. When
I was young it was considered common courtesy to apologize when bumping
into someone. It did not matter if it was your fault, theirs or no
ones. It was, bump, and then an 'I'm sorry' or 'excuse me.' Now you get
nothing. These small lapses isolate us even more from the masses around
us. This detachment from our fellow Earthlings is as another blow to
our humanity and another step toward a narcissistic society.
My Response: It is sad that fewer people are taught the small courtesies that are important aspects of a civilized society, the social apology, as you describe it, being one. I try to focus on my own small, but I hope significant part in behaving well myself, saying sorry if I bump into someone, keeping the door open for strangers, etc. and teach my children to do the same. At least I can do that.
From Rebecca: I
agree with much of the article, but not everything (for example, in my
opinion and experience, groveling is never appropriate, healing, or
In my private practice, I use a 5-part model (though every part is
not always necessary): Find the truth in the other’s position,
Acknowledge the other’s feelings/thoughts/values, Share your feelings,
Express appreciation for the other, Inquiry to deepen understanding and
For some couples I see, using the Five Apology types that Chapman talks about is a helpful framework.
I wrote: By
groveling I meant, set aside false pride and apologize from a position
of humility. As a couples counselor I’m sure you have seen people
struggle over this concept. I wasn’t familiar with Gary Chapman, so I
googled him and found terrific guidance for couples. http://www.fivelovelanguages.com/learn_apology.html