One of the most devastating lessons of early childhood is that you sometimes have to apologize even when you’re not sorry. These days, you might not be snatching a toy from another kid just because you decided they had it long enough, but that doesn’t make having to force an apology any easier. Here’s how to do it and why you should.
There will be incidents in your professional and social life where you need to apologize simply to keep a relationship functioning. Apologizing signals a willingness to keep the relationship amicable. Angela Gorman, managing partner and president of AMW PR, said apologies are powerful, and if you’re on the fence about offering one up, ask yourself how much the relationship in question means to you.
“If you value the relationship, see the apology as a bridge to easing the tension and an opportunity to rebuild,” she said, adding this is a standard practice to “maintain peace and serenity.”
Don’t make this an overly sentimental, wordy encounter. The more you talk around the issue, the faker you’ll look and the more likely you are to let on that you aren’t particularly sorry—which would defeat the purpose of what you’re trying to accomplish. Instead, be direct.
Gorman suggested focusing on how the other person feels: “It’s not as much about the apology as it is empathizing that they are feeling wronged in some way.” She said you should try to see the situation from their perspective. Put yourself in their shoes, the way your parents taught you as a child when you were a little toy-snatcher.
“This works for toddlers as much as it does for adults,” Gorman said. “Acknowledge that they are feeling the way they are and that you are sorry they are feeling that way.”
Don’t rely entirely on the “sorry you feel hurt” model, though. Take a little ownership, too, and say you’re sorry your actions led to that hurt. Then, leave it alone. Don’t dwell on the topic. Instead, suggest getting back to work on a joint venture, grabbing coffee in the future, or another activity that will help you get the relationship back on track.