12 Steps to Offering a Sincere Apology at Work
Follow these steps for offering a sincere and authentic apology that will build trust and reconnect you with the person you have offended:
- Set the context. Let them know that you need to apologize, request that they hear you out, and let them know that you will then listen to what they have to say.
- Make eye contact, use their name and say “I’m really sorry for…” describing exactly what you did (or believe you did) to offend them, with genuine sincerity.
- Admit your mistake and accept responsibility for your actions. Say “It was wrong of me to…” and show true remorse.
- DO NOT explain your reasons or give excuses for what you did. If you need to, do it later. Here it will diminish the apology.
- Recognize and acknowledge the impact it on the other person’s feelings.
- Recognize and acknowledge the impact it had on the other person in terms of actions or consequences they had to deal with.
- Reassure them how much you value them in your life.
- Make restitution. Tell them what you are prepared to do to make it right, and then make sure you do it. They need to hear what you are willing to do in order to assess the full meaning of your apology.
- Explain to them what specifically you commit to doing differently next time so the mistake will not happen again.
- Finish with “Again, I’m really sorry” and use their name once more.
- Ask them to share their thoughts. Do not get defensive! Listen well, apologize again if necessary.
- Finish by checking in with them to confirm that they have accepted your apology, and that you are starting to get back on track.
For example: “Susan I need to apologize to you. I am a little nervous and this is hard for me, so can I ask that you hear me out and then I will listen to what you have to say?
I’m really sorry about mentioning your personal situation in the meeting yesterday. You told me that in confidence and I breached that confidence in front of our Team. It was not ok for me to do that. I saw a shocked look on your face when I said it and I knew I was out of line. My guess is you were hurt and upset. Our relationship means a lot to me, and I am so sorry if I have caused you pain. It’s the last thing I want to do.
I would like to go back to the team and let them know that I relayed information that was confidential, own up to the fact that I was out of line in doing so, and ask that they treat it as confidential in hopes that it doesn’t go any further. I will also let them know how sorry I am for this error on my part.
I’m going to be more careful and thoughtful about what I say from now on, and I am going to work hard to get back on track with you. Again, I’m truly sorry for all of this Susan. I would like to hear your thoughts."