You know you need to apologize…
“The basic idea is that we are highly motivated to maintain a positive image of ourselves – an image of self-integrity, morality, and adequacy,” Schumann said in an email. And this, she reasons, is why apologizing can suck so very much: Having to admit that our words or actions hurt someone else threatens the image of our ideal self. So it makes sense that so many apologies are so bad. We get defensive, so we justify our behaviour, all to protect our egos.
Research has shown that refusing to admit you were wrong feels pretty great at the moment because you get to maintain that idealized picture of yourself. But an unresolved conflict can poison a relationship; in the workplace, it can even drive people to quit their jobs. Decades of social-psychology research confirm the basic human truth your mom taught you: If you messed up, you have to apologize.
But what exactly makes a good apology? According to Schumann’s paper, there are eight notes you have to hit:
1. You actually have to use the words I’m sorry.
2. Acknowledge that you messed up. (As in, “I take full responsibility for my words.”)
3. Tell the person how you’ll fix the situation.
4. Describe what happened, but without foisting the blame off on someone else.
5. Promise to behave better next time.
6. Make sure the person knows you know exactly how you hurt or inconvenienced them.
7. Much like the first rule, it’s important to use some version of the phrase “I was wrong.”
8. Ask for forgiveness.
Here’s how to heal a relationship in 8 simple steps – instead of making the problems worse…