The Art of the Apology


How good are you at apologizing when you’ve hurt someone important in your life?  Apologies can be tough.  We certainly know when we’ve missed the mark with one, but has anyone ever outlined the attributes of an effective apology?

In her book Hold Me Tight, Dr. Sue Johnson identifies aspects of an effective apology.  A good apology:

  • Communicates that the other person’s pain is important (avoid comments like: “it’s not that big of a deal” – instead: “I see how much you’re hurting, and I want to make things better between us”)


  • Validates the other person’s feelings (avoid comments like: “I think you’re blowing this out of proportion” – instead: “I know you, and what you’ve been through and understand why this would have been so painful for you”)


  • Owns up to what you did that was hurtful (avoid comments like: “I’m sorry you feel hurt” – instead: “I’m sorry that what I did hurt you”)


  • Expresses remorse/regret (this indicates you’ve been affected by the incident as well and are less likely to hurt them in this way again)


  • Reassures your support as the other person works through the pain (this creates a safe place to re-build trust)

So, the next time you find yourself in the doghouse – think about these tips.  An effective apology can go a long way!