February 23, 2021 John R. Hatfield 0 Comments

University of New Mexico Mentoring Institute

John R. Hatfield

We have all botched an apology at one time or another. Most of us have no idea of what constitures a true apology from a false apology.

Good apologies must have the following: The offender must take personal ownership for what they did wrong and willing to repair the situation. Anything sideways of these two grounding elements falls short of the intent and impairs the need and purpose for restitution and wellness.

The purpose of apology is to restore a fractured relationship whether between friends, co-workers, a boss, neighbors, children, spouses, lovers, or significant others. True apologies never have any additions, no add on, buts, if’s, or justifications to why. When this happens it says, I get a free pass, focusing on self-preservation and identity. When these are interjected in the apology it changes everything. It shifts the pain and weight of personal accountability to blame. Honesty demands a full truth not a half-truth seeking relief of the discomfort. Many times, I only want to share a half-truth protecting myself and choosing not to take personal responsibility. When we opt for half-truths the receiver of the apology is devalued and whatever happened is also devalued. When this level of immaturity happens, restitution is compromised. Of course, the opposite occurs when the receiver feels sincerity and sorrow in an honest responsible apology. 

A true apology should bring reconciliation.

Botched Apologies…oxford dictionary defines “non-apology”, as a statement that takes the form of an apology but doesn’t sufficiently acknowledge responsibility or regret. “When we’ve done something wrong, we tend to be self-focused,” says Frantz (2016).  Frantz goes on to say, “You actually should be more focused on the other person, making sure they really believe that you get what you did wrong.” A significant aspect of good apology is communicating, assuring, and committing not to engage in the inappropriate behavior again. If taking personal responsibility and committing to change is side stepped, then apology is dysfunctional. It should be noted, apology dialogue is always emotional, and drama can derail the apology.

Harriet Lerner addresses the following five ingredients of a failed apology.

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  1. Raising our “But” conciseness. Sincerity is eroded when we use the word but and has a cancelling effect. Lerner states, “It says, in effect, given the whole situation, my rudeness (or lateness, or sarcastic tone, or what-have-you) is pretty understandable.”
  2. “I’m Sorry You Feel That Way” says Lerner is another “pseudo apology,” She states, “a true apology keeps the focus on your actions and not on the other persons response.”
  3. “Watch Out For If” comments Lerner, “is a non-apology. It can come across condescending and it invites the other person to question their own actions.”
  4. Forgive Me Already and Forgive Me Now. Lerner states, “Another fine way to ruin an apology is to view your apology as an automatic ticket to forgiveness and redemption, that is, it’s really about you and your need for reassurance. I’m sorry shouldn’t be viewed as a bargaining chip you give to get something back from the injured party, like forgiveness.”
  5. The Intrusive Apology “there is nothing good to be said about apologizing to someone who truly does not want to hear another word from you,” states Lerner.

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Six Keys to an Effective Apology

New research, published in the May 2016 journal of Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, co-authored by Lewicki, Lount, and Polin discover six keys to an effective apology. “Apologies really do work, but you should make sure you hit as many of the six key components as possible,” said Roy Lewicki, the research concluded that the more of the six key elements used when expressing an apology, the more effective the apology. The following are the six elements:

1. Expression of regret.

2. Explanation of what went wrong.

3. Acknowledgment of responsibility.

4. Declaration of repentance.

5. Offer of repair.

6. Request for forgiveness.

John R. Hatfield

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BOTCHED APOLOGIES was last modified: June 21st, 2021 by John R. Hatfield