6 Best Ways To Apologize, According To Science

The researchers performed two experiments with a total of 755 participants, asking them to rank how sincere and effective the apology felt. They looked at six components that make a good apology, which they’d identified in previous research. You probably won’t be surprised they found that the more of these you hit, the better-received your apology will be.
“Saying I’m sorry is the first step; then ‘How can I help?’”

How to Apologize in 6 Parts

The song simplifies things a bit, but it’s still pretty spot on. Here are the six parts of a good apology, according to the researchers at Ohio State University:

  1. Expression of regret – “I’m sorry.”
  2. Explanation of what went wrong – “Here’s what happened.”
  3. Acknowledgment of responsibility – “It was my fault.”
  4. Declaration of repentance – “I feel terrible about it.”
  5. Offer of repair – “Let me fix what I messed up.”
  6. Request for forgiveness – “I hope that you can forgive me.”

The researchers say that in a time-sensitive situation, there are two elements that are the most important:

  1. Acknowledge you were wrong
  2. Offer to fix the problem

The main drawback to the study is that participants had the apology related to them by a third party. The apologizer wasn’t there in person. Lead author Roy Lewicki admits that emotion, tone of voice and body language are all important when giving an in-person apology. In a press release about the study, he said, “Clearly, things like eye contact and appropriate expression of sincerity are important when you give a face-to-face apology.”


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