• 11/05/2021

How to Apologize Meaningfully and Take Accountability

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Taking accountability for something you’ve done wrong can be a difficult journey, but if you recognize that you’ve done something wrong, it can be cathartic for all parties involved to come clean and apologize for what you’ve done. No matter what it is that you’ve done, apologizing and owning up to your mistakes is a part of the process of moving forward. Taking accountability and addressing situations in a mature way is a part of adult communication, and it’s a step we all need to take at some point or another. Everyone needs to apologize sometimes, and the more sincerely and thoroughly you know how to do it, the better. 

1. Take Time to Reflect

Before you open your mouth to say anything to anybody, the first thing you should do is look inside yourself and reflect on the situation for yourself. When you’ve done something that you regret, it can be helpful to consider why you did what you did and what state of mind you were in when you took the actions you now regret. This can help you give context as well as prevent similar situations in the future. While this step is often a quieter one, it is among the most important, and shouldn’t be forgotten.

2. Accept Personal Responsibility

When it comes to actually apologizing, the first big step is to admit personal responsibility and take accountability for the thing that you did. Vocalizing your acceptance of fault in the situation can be instrumental in crafting a genuine apology. This can help you avoid non-apologies or manipulative behavior that puts the responsibility on the person you wronged. The word “You” will likely not be present in a genuine apology — like “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Instead, using I statements such as, “I’m sorry I said that,” can be much more productive and honest.

3. Name What You Did

Although this came up in the previous point, it’s worthwhile to mention the importance of naming what you did and why you are sorry. When you don’t name exactly what you did, it can come off like you are just apologizing because you want the other person to stop feeling bad, not because you are actually sorry or because you have reflected on what you’ve done. Be as specific as you can be so that they know why you’re sorry.

4. Make Reparations

Even with all of this talk about apologizing with your words, it’s important to recognize that words are often not enough. It’s true what they say, “actions speak louder than words.” Especially if you have done something to harm another person, it can be even more important to make it up to them with actionable steps.

While it doesn’t always have to be specific to the situation, necessarily, it’s best if the way you make it up to them is somehow related to or makes up for the way that you wronged them. Even though it is still extremely crucial to apologize with your words, you should also make the necessary reparations to mend the situation as best you can. Be aware — it often takes a lot more effort and thought to make up for something than it would have taken to do things right the first time around. You have to earn that person’s trust again.

5. Improve Your Behavior

Making it up to somebody and apologizing are all well and good, but the real test is how you behave in the future. Anytime you need to apologize for something, you can look at it as a learning experience for how to treat people going forward. Specifically, you can look at this situation as a guide for how to treat that specific person going forward. This is an opportunity to improve your behavior, as apologies mean less and less the more you have to use them.

6. Leave the Ball In Their Court

Even though you might want an answer right away or you might feel entitled to forgiveness, remember that no apology can make up for wronging someone in the first place. Give them the time and space they need to process everything, no matter how long it takes them. At the end of the day, it is their choice whether or not they want to forgive you for what you have done, and you have to accept whatever they decide.

Taking Accountability

At the end of the day, we will all have to apologize for something in our lives. No matter what, it’s important to approach each situation with sincerity and kindness. Whether the person in question decides to forgive you, or they need some time to think it over, you can use this as an opportunity to grow and become a better person through your mistakes.

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