Magazine article Work & Family Life

Right (and Wrong) Ways to Say 'I'm Sorry'

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Right (and Wrong) Ways to Say 'I'm Sorry'

Article excerpt

Q I was not told about a meeting I should have attended.When I pointed this out to our team leader, he said, "Oh, I'm sorry, but...," then went on to make me feel like I was being overly sensitive. There's gotta be a better was to apologize.

-E.D., Los Angeles

A So glad you asked. We learned a lot about how to say I'm sorry from the new book Why Won't You Apologize? Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts (Touchstone) by Harriet Lerner, PhD. Here are a few of her suggestions:

* DON'T ADD THE WORD "BUT" to an apology. Making excuses or trying to shift the blame undermines the sincerity of an apology.

* DON'T ASK TO BE FORGIVEN. The hurt party may not be ready for that, and it's not our place to tell anyone to forgive or not forgive.

* FOCUS YOUR APOLOGY on what you said or did, not on how someone reacted to it. If you say, "I'm sorry you feel that way" it suggests "I'm not really sorry at all."

* NONDEFENSIVE LISTENING to an injured party is central to offering a sincere apology. Don't argue, interrupt, refute or correct facts or bring up your own criticism and complaints. Even if the offended person was partly or largely at fault, you can still apologize for your role in the incident.

* YOUR APOLOGY MAY BE SINCERE, but the injured party still has a right to either accept of reject it. …

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