An apology is an expression of regret. Effective apologies involve the apologizer taking full responsibility and pledging to prevent repeat offences.
When we hear a child say "I'm sorry" when prompted, the insincerity is often palatable. Similar apologies by politicians and CEOs of recent have illicit similar reactions. What makes an apology effective?
Effective apologies should address:
- which norm (personal, social) was violated,
- acceptance of responsibility by the violator, and
- how the violations will be prevented in the future.
If these ideas sound familiar, it may be because that's what we tell our children.
What apologies have you found to be the most effective?
The Role of Apology in Negotiation for a discussion about apologies and their implications.
Why Is It So Hard to Apologize Well? at The New York Times Magazine for a longer discussion.