6 practical methods to master the art of apologizing and feeling guilt-free

26, 2021

11 min read

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As human beings, we know that the act of apologizing for our mistakes is one of the most difficult to do, because people feel that they show their vulnerability to the mistakes made. In truth, reality shows that he is one of the most exalted.

However, out of pride, many live with accumulated grudges that allow us to do it in a frontal, healthy way and thus reconcile distant positions and resolve unpleasant situations.

Apologizing is much more than asking for forgiveness said in passing, from the mouth out. It is deeper, it is an internal process that needs to be elaborated by the parties involved and that allows to clean up and clear what was bothering.

Even, as you will discover later, it is possible to do it even when people are no longer physically with us.

What mistakes are often made when apologizing?

To begin with, consider that from the point of view of behavior there is a certain tendency to variability, to be very elusive when it comes to committing to correct mistakes and to respect the word given. That is why having a method helps.

Other mistakes are wanting to hide what is happening, making excuses of all kinds; lying to oneself that it is “not that bad” and not being empathic with the effect that our mistake may have had on other people; that is, the person does not have a record of the emotional impact produced. It is an unconscious denial mechanism.

And a very frequent one is not knowing how to find the right moment, which means that you may want to take the weight off yourself, even if the other party is not in a position or willing to receive an apology.

6 methods of dealing with a sincere apology

Why do you need to have a “method” to apologize? Basically, because it helps each person to become aware of the depth of their mistakes, and the mistakes they make.

In certain personality types, this is associated with feeling exposed to others, and incompetent. Hence, many times the way in which apologies are given is clumsy and inappropriate.

People tend to get nervous, not look into the eyes, blush, and fall short of words; and even use an inappropriate way to do it, such as sending a text message on your mobile in a truly serious situation.

What each method seeks is to help create a virtuous circle of rebuilding trust with others, which will be demonstrated with this apology and which will be ratified through sustained actions over time.

We will review here 6 methods with specific techniques to apologize:

Image: Depositphotos.com

The Stanford method

Researchers from the social areas of Stanford University synthesized in their opinion, an ideal formula to apologize, which includes four points:

  • The first is that you understand and are aware that you have made a mistake.
  • Second: you assume responsibility, without transferring it to others. You take over.
  • Third, it is important to come up with a plan to work things out.
  • Fourth, you commit to act without overreacting and to take precautions in similar situations in the future.

The Damage Repair Method

In this case, you can follow these six steps to repair the damage that has occurred:

  • First step: express a sincere regret in a short, direct and sincere way. Bringing a list of excuses and ‘buts’ is not going to help you.
  • Second: explain from your perspective what you think went wrong, as long as it was not your intention. Here it is important to explain and make clear how you felt, and also, that you can imagine how the other party experienced it. This point aims to generate empathy with others.
  • Third: assume your share of responsibility, without excuses, for the damage that has occurred. You could have all or not of that responsibility, and always express it in the first person singular (“I feel that …”, “I personally assume …”).
  • Make an offer for repair or mitigation of damages that may have been caused. It is not always about material issues, as it is also damaged through emotions, feelings and behaviors. The supply needs to be proportional to the size of what has been broken.
  • Apologize: so far you have apologized and repented. This last point implies asking for forgiveness, with all the depth that this means.

The PANDA method

This practice arises from various sociological and psychological investigations, including those carried out based on the self-transformation theory of Stanford University itself, reflected in some psychology publications, such as PsychCentral based on social experiments and studies.

To keep this in mind, we can remember the acrostic PANDA:

Q: Promise and deliver . It is useless to fill the apology with words, if you are not aware of your mistake. Many people simply say “forgive me, I’m sorry” and think that that alone is enough. Rather, any promise that is not kept is a false promise, therefore not worth the apology.

A: Admit that you were wrong. This is the critical point where most people fail, because it shows them fallible, which, on the other hand, is something inherent to the human condition: there is no perfection on this physical plane and we all make mistakes. In this step it is very important to assume it with sincerity, honesty and frontality. In doing so, verbal language is so important (what I say in words, approximately represents 10% of our communication in emotional contexts), and non-verbal (what I say through gestures, posture, tone of voice, which is the remaining 90%). It is no use saying words in passing to admit the mistake, if the body says otherwise.

N: Don’t make excuses; We do not need anymore explanations. This is not the time. Talk only about yourself, not the other party. Here’s another area where people often fail, because they need to comfort themselves internally when apologizing for their mistakes. Since they know they are at fault, they want to either minimize or justify them. The preferred way is to make excuses such as “is that such a thing happened …”, “if you hadn’t told me …”, “this wouldn’t happen if …”. And as can be seen, the behavior in these cases is evasive, since it places the responsibility for the fact outside the person.

About responsibility can be understood as “respons / ability”, the ability to respond to the things we live. And that’s what apologizing is all about: it’s an act of taking responsibility for your actions.

D: Describe how you would react to a similar situation next time. This step of the PANDA method is decisive, as it seeks to establish a concrete and specific line of action (not only aspirational or “I’m going to try”) but also to explain with total clarity how you are going to act the next time a situation could occur. similar.

What appears at this point is the learning curve: we made a mistake, we apologize following the PANDA method, and, based on the lesson learned from this fact, I expose the other party – which may be the one affected by the mistake made. – How will I act if that happens again, what precautions will I take, how can I anticipate so as not to fall into the same error.

A: Act consistently on your promise and keep your word. The concordance between what we think, feel, say and do is what generates a new framework of trust, which has possibly been damaged, or directly lost, due to a mistake made if the case is not apologized.

This point seeks that the actions that follow in the interactions are totally consistent with what has been promised.

3 methods to apologize to someone who is physically gone

Now you will know three other methods focused on situations in which people have passed away. They are specific to when guilt is present, and you want to alleviate it and apologize.

As you can see, it is possible to apologize to people who are not physically there. These three techniques need to trust the process , and are based on releasing the burden of guilt or remorse that the person feels for not having been able to save the situation in the presence.

Here you have them explained with their step-by-step techniques:

Technique N ° 1:  

One way to achieve this is to write the apology in detail, honesty and feeling, as if it were a letter, in handwriting. Then, do a brief ceremony of burning that letter, imagining that the other person has received the message.

Technique N ° 2 :

Another procedure that works is to express gratitude for that experience that was unfortunate in front of that person who is no longer physically there. Gratitude is a very powerful tool for healing and inner tranquility, especially to repair past situations.

In this case, I suggest giving even this difficult situation a moment of appreciation by verbalizing the apology in your own words at the beginning of the day and before bed. The suggestion is to do it every day, until you feel inner peace.

Technique N ° 3:

If there is a relative of that person willing to listen to you, to be able to express your apologies personally, as if you were doing it with the original person. This exercise is more challenging as it can sometimes be complex or painful situations. If the person knows how to receive it and “pass it on” to their relative, it can be comforting for the person who is apologizing. Although the objective that I suggest is not to wait for the acceptance of that relative -because of the burden of pain that may be accumulated by the fact in apology, plus the loss of the relative-; rather it is about obtaining peace of mind in you, and demonstrating your real intention to leave that healthy.

“Forgive is not forget. But it helps to let go of the pain, ” says Kathy Hedberg. The truth is that, by doing so, life becomes lighter with respect to the fact that you want to repair. And that’s the best symbol of the practical effectiveness of a sincere apology you could ever have.

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