“I’m sorry” are two of the most powerful words in our shared human languages. From the time we are children, we are taught that when you do something bad to someone else, you have to apologize. In preschool, if you hurt someone, you apologize for it. But all it really does is reinforce the surface level of what you have to do to obtain forgiveness is say you are sorry. There are many internal things that must happen if you want to apologize, and you have to express more than an apology .

Your apology should be as strong as your offense was

Here’s how you apologize out loud to someone:

1. Take stock of why you feel it

Before a single word comes out of your mouth, you need to take stock of why you feel it. You need to understand what you did and empathize a bit with the person you did it to. Understanding why you are sorry is the first step. Without this part of the apology uncovered, you can’t really apologize.

2. Say you’re sorry

As we already mentioned, “I’m sorry” are two of the most powerful words you can pronounce. You have to express that you are sorry, that is one of the most important things you can do when you mistreat someone. It is an admission that you understand that you made a mistake. But to be fair, these are just words you should say if you really mean it. To apologize for something you are not sorry for, words and your character are lowered

3. Express that you understand why you feel it

It is important to say that you are sorry, but it is not all you have to say. To apologize as loudly as your offense was, you must express that you understand why you are sorry. Analyze. Talk about your actions and how they clearly impacted. Affirming that you understand how you made the other party feel is absolutely crucial to legitimizing your apology.

4. Talk about what you have learned

When we make mistakes and make a good faith effort to correct them, there should be something you can learn. Mistakes, especially those that hurt other people, provide us with important and teaching moments. When you apologize, it’s not just to cover your butt but to rebuild trust. Can the other person really trust you if they don’t know you learned something? Talk about what you learned from the mistake you made.

5. Acknowledge that you understand the consequences

Another part of your apology should be an outward acknowledgment that you understand that there will be consequences, possibly more severe consequences, if you make the same mistake again. The other party can’t fully trust you again if you don’t understand that making that mistake again will have consequences. These consequences are an impediment for you to act like you did again. Make sure they know that you know.

6. Make a list of the ways you will change

This part can be simple and short. Talking about the steps you will take to avoid the mistake again in the future informs the other party that you are fully committed to correcting your mistakes and that you are working hard to be better in the future.

7. Ask for forgiveness

The last step in the process of apologizing out loud is specifically asking the other party to forgive you. If they don’t, repeat any of the steps above until you know what needs to happen to get that forgiveness.

Apologizing is not always easy, but if your relationship with the offended party is important, you will apologize fully, and loudly, loud enough to match your offense and disrespect.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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