It can be difficult to make a genuine apology. Our natural defence mechanisms often encourage us to deny we have done anything wrong. At times we may think admitting our fault will make things worse. Actually, research suggests an effective apology can improve the situation. An effective apology contains six elements. Next time you are in a n position where you need to apologise, try incorporating these six elements to craft an effective and genuine apology.

The Six Elements of an Effective Apology

1. Recognition — recognition of the mistake and the harm it caused;

I am deeply sorry for missing your presentation. I know it was important to you that I be there, and I understand you are feeling hurt and abandoned.”

2. Responsibility — an admission of responsibility or fault;

It was my fault for not leaving work earlier enough.”

3. Regret — an expression of regret or sympathy;

“I regret letting you down like this and I’m sorry you had to present without moral support.”

4. Reasons — an explanation of what happened, or what your error was;

“My meeting ran over time and when it ended the manager gave me an errand to run.  I was too optimistic in thinking I could squeeze it all in before coming to see you.”

5. Redress — an explanation of what is being done to fix the mistake or prevent it happening again;

I have made it a new rule of mine to be more assertive at work by telling my manager what time I need to leave in advance.”

6. Release — in some cases, a request for forgiveness.

I hope you can forgive me.”

Tip: People can usually tell the difference between a partial and genuine apology. Partial apologies are worded in overly bureaucratic language or are of the “I’m sorry you feel that way” variety. At best, a partial apology can improve things a bit, but often partial apologies are considered no better than a lack of response. For help in developing your capacity to give a good apology contact Shelley Rogers Psychologist at

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