We are all human and one of the many commonalities that all humans have in common is that we all make mistakes at some point in our lives – some of us even make multiple mistakes. Regardless of the mistake made, owning it and apologizing for that mistake helps us grow as socially and emotionally aware individuals. I am sure we can all agree that we might have mixed feelings about giving (and sometimes receiving) apologies, especially when we do not think that we are wrong. However, there are many emotional, social, and physical benefits of giving (and receiving) and genuine apology.
“I’m sorry” – the two most common words out of everyone’s mouth when they think that someone is upset or when an apology is needed. However, just stating that you’re sorry without any thought or energy put into the apology does not resolve the issue at hand and can even make the issue worse. Edutopia explains in their article “The Value of a Real Apology” that meaningful and thoughtful apologies can help teach empathy, solve problems, and build stronger relationships. Along with Edutopia, this article by Very Well Mind discusses the importance of apologizing in relationships and how it can benefit both parties. The article mentions that apologizing opens a door for further discussion about why the mistake was made and how to prevent it in the future.
Apologies not only help strengthen our relationships by opening lines of communication, but they can help rid ourselves of guilt for the mistake that we made or the hurt that we caused. Psychology Today discuses the many benefits of apologizing in their article “The Power of Apology” by Beverly Engel. The article not only explains the removal of guilt but also reminds us that asking for an apology can help build confidence and emotional awareness. It is also noted, and I am sure many of us can agree with this, that a genuine apology allows us to move on from the situation and shed the anger or sadness associated with the situation.
So what makes an effective and genuine apology? Well, according to Greater Good a genuine apology includes how you are feeling (“I am sorry…”) followed by the mistake made (“I am sorry that I…”) and the negative impact it had (“I am sorry that I hurt your feelings by ripping up your artwork…”), concluding with how you can make amends (“I am sorry that I hurt your feelings by ripping up your artwork, can I get you a new paper and some art supplies to help you make a new piece of artwork?”). For more information on how to make a genuine apology check out this article by WebMD – “How to Apologize and Mean It.”
Along with WebMD and Greater Good, Understood created a simple way to teach and remind students about genuine apologies using the acronym SORRY – check out their article for more information and classroom/office printouts. Along with this simple acronym from Understood, TeensHealth put together a clear explanation of the importance of apologies aimed at middle school and high school students. Another tool to use in high school classrooms is this brief handout created by Harvard titled “The Power of Apologies.” We also found this SEL exercise created by My Learning Tools for elementary school classrooms when discussing the importance of apologies and forgiveness.
We hope this information has helped you better understand the importance of a thoughtful and genuine apology versus the rushed and thoughtless “I’m sorry!”