The Best Way to Apologize, According to Science

A new study has identified six parts of an effective apology.

We all screw up sometimes, soknowing how to deliver a sincere, effective apology is a life skill definitely worth honing. An Ohio State University study looked at how to apologize bybreaking an apology down into components and seeing which parts were most important.

The researchers performed two experiments with a total of 755 participants, asking them to rank how sincere and effective the apology felt. Theylooked atsix componentsthat 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.

Apologizing is a hot topic in my house right now. I have a three-year-old who’s just starting to learn how his actions impact other people and what to do when he hurts someone’s feelings.Apologies are such a big deal among the toddler set that the popular PBS Kids program, Daniel Tiger, has a whole episode dedicated to saying you’re sorry.

Say what you will about kids and screen time: Daniel has this apology thing down pat.Check out hisapology song:

“Saying I’m sorry is the first step; then ‘How can I help?’”

How to Apologize in 6Parts

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 elementsthat are the most important:

How to Apologize, According to Science

They explained that themore of those six elements your apology includes, the better, but if you can’t get to all six, the ones in the graphic above are the top two points to hit.”Saying I’m sorry is the first step; then, ‘How can I help?’” Nice job, Daniel.

The main drawback to the study is that participantshad the apology related to them by a third party. The apologizer wasn’t there in person. Lead authorRoy 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.”

Images via Thinkstock and University of Ohio, respectively.

242 comments

Mark H
Mark H1 months ago

TY! Mr. Rodgers was amazing.

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Melania P
Melania P2 months ago

Oh nice! Thanks for sharing. Just be honest about it and it should work.

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ANA MARIJA R
ANA MARIJA R3 months ago

copy&paste heather g :)
Thank you for the reminders.

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iloshechka A
iloshechka A3 months ago

thanks

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Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa3 months ago

Thank you

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Christy J
Christy J3 months ago

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Christy J
Christy J3 months ago

I have read one of the book it not only helped me to learn a few things about good relationship, I could use to improve myself sexually, it also made me realize how important being confident to one’s girl is, I am very thankful for all the wonderful advice from the book, If you looking for good relationship with your partner read from here >>> ( www.healthandrich.com/sex )

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Jerome S
Jerome S3 months ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S3 months ago

thanks

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 months ago

thanks for sharing.

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