1. Just saying you’re sorry does not constitute an apology. Especially if you repeat the behavior. Saying you’re sorry and doing it again begins to fall on deaf ears. An apology goes far beyond just saying you’re sorry. It begins by saying that you are sorry, and also that you take complete responsibility for your actions. And there’s more.
  2. Next, you need to validate the other person’s feelings. As human beings, we all have feelings, and it is important that we accept and validate the other person’s feelings. Feelings are neither right or wrong. However they are valid.
  3. Next, you need to acknowledge the impact of your behavior. What you did had an impact on you, on the other person, and potentially on many other people. There’s usually a ripple effect. It’s important to acknowledge and get present to this impact.
  4. Next, you need to communicate what’s missing. This is where you stand inside of “there’s nothing wrong, but there is something missing.” What’s missing is comprised of three parts. First, what’s missing as a mindset, attitude, way of being or paradigm of thinking? Second, given this, what’s missing in terms of actions or behaviors? And, third, given this, what’s missing in terms of a new structure to sustain this new mindset and behaviors?
  5. Finally, you need to communicate your new commitment. “What I am committed to is ….” “What you can count on me for in the future is ….” Of course, you will need to follow through with your new promise in order to regain the trust of the other person.

Following these steps constitutes a powerful apology – an apology that really works and makes a difference for not only the person you offended, but for you as well. Go ahead. Give it a try. It will take practice. But the rewards are great.

Ruben J Guzman, MPH 2009