Problems blow out of proportion and relationships dash because of someone having too much pride to say those two little words: "I'm sorry".
The purpose of an apology is relationship repair. In the absence of a sincere and convincing apology, the wounded person may nurse a grudge for years. In most cases the missing ingredient to repair once-solid relationships was a genuine apology for damage done.
Three components of effective apologies
Regret for having caused damage or hurt to another. A genuine expression of regret shows that you empathize with the person you hurt. That's the key element - showing them that you truly know how they feel.
Responsibility for your actions - whatever you did that caused the personal damage. This is best delivered in a specific way, such as "I'm sorry I was late getting home with the canapיs. I know I caused you a lot of inconvenience and embarrassment for the party."
Remedy to make up for the damage done. Sometimes this involves restitution ("I have made arrangements to repair the fender quickly, and I'll cover the costs of a rental car while it's being repaired.") and sometimes the apology makes a credible promise of remedial behavior in the future ("I have signed up for a series of classes on anger-management.")
A lame apology can be worse than no apology!
Lame apologies include:
o Forced apologies said reluctantly and insincerely
o Apologies that show no genuine remorse
o Passive apologies ("Mistakes were made.")
o Excuse-laden apologies ("Yes, but . . .")
o Automatic, or too hasty, apologies
o "Iffy" apologies ("Sorry for any trouble I may have caused.")
The most effective apology
Face-to-face is usually the best way to apologize because the hurt person can assess the sincerity of your expressions. Next best is by telephone because others can assess feelings from your voice.
Least effective is by email, which seems both cheap and unsubstantial. It's much easier to deceive when you're just using text, and the receiver may doubt your sincerity.
To make sure you don't bungle an apology that could have huge consequences, rehearsal of your words and expressions is often helpful. Consider doing a few run-throughs with a coach, counselor, or good friend.
Don't over-rehearse so that you seem too smooth, but at least get your main ideas in order. Remember to include: Regret, Responsibility, Remedy.