For an Apology to Work, Say These Two Things

Offering to fix it goes a long way
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2016 8:00 AM CDT
Bernie Sanders, left, offers an apology to Hillary Clinton during a Democratic presidential primary debate Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H.   (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

(Newser) – A true apology involves a lot more than saying, "I'm sorry," and scientists are reporting in the journal Negotiation and Conflict Management Research that they've broken down effective apologies to six basic elements—and that two of them are by far the most important aspects. First, the six elements as laid out by Ohio State University researchers are:

  1. Expressing regret
  2. Explaining what went wrong
  3. Acknowledging responsibility
  4. Declaring repentance
  5. Offering to repair
  6. Asking forgiveness

If you've got the time (and lack of ego) to squeeze in all six, the greater your chances of being forgiven, according to several hundred adults and undergrads asked to evaluate a hypothetical apology, reports the Telegraph. If you have to leave out one element, asking to be forgiven is the one to go. But owning up to your misstep and offering to fix it are by far the most effective of the remaining five. "Our findings showed that the most important component is an acknowledgement of responsibility—say it is your fault, that you made a mistake," the lead researcher says. But that's not all. "One concern about apologies is that talk is cheap. But by saying, 'I'll fix what is wrong,' you're committing to take action to undo the damage." (Check how these top five political apologies stack up.)

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