SINGAPORE - From chicken rice chain owner, to church pastor and airline CEO, some people in high positions have got into hot water recently over things they or their organisations did. They have had to apologise for their actions. But how do you say sorry in such a way that people will accept, and hopefully, forgive you, so you can repair the damage and move on?
Professor of psychology David Chan at the Singapore Management University shares the seven Rs of a Redeeming Apology. How do you say sorry like you mean it?
See the damage you did with your action and recognise it. Don't minimise things by calling it an error of judgment or a blunder, or a lapse.
See things from the other person's perspective. Empathise with the person or group hurt. But don't say condescending things like: "I know how you feel". Chances are, you don't. Focus instead on your own actions. It's OK to say: “I am sorry to have said hurtful things”. Not so good to say: "I am sorry to have caused you hurt".
Reveal and express your genuine regret and remorse.
Take responsibility for what you did. It's fine to explain what happened, but admit your wrongdoing without giving excuses. "I should not have done that, but I was irritated by what was happening around me” is a classic “but” apology that makes things worse. By attributing the cause to an external factor beyond your control, you will be seen as shifting blame, not taking responsibility. Instead, just say: “I should not have done that. I hurt you by doing that and I am really sorry.”
Ask for forgiveness and express the hope that your apology will be accepted.
Make amendments. Do something concrete and positive to reduce the damage caused and signal your desire to reconcile and repair the relationship.
People you hurt want your assurance that it will not happen again. So it is important to resolve not to re-offend and repeat similar wrongdoings, and let the offended party know this. This “resolve not to repeat” is critical.
Now that you've said sorry, what's next? Hopefully, it's accepted and you and the offended party can move on.
"Research shows that sincere apologies can reduce stress and contribute to mental and physical health for both parties, especially when the apology is accepted. When we receive a sincere apology, we should let go and move on," advises Prof Chan.
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