How Do I Make an Effective Apology?

by Dave Ulrich

This week I unintentionally offended two colleagues and friends by showing a lack of respect for their contributions to others and myself. I am disappointed and annoyed with myself. How do I apologize so I (we) can move on?

First, candidly acknowledge that I have done wrong. “I overstepped in giving feedback.” “I did not fully engage in activities that were meaningful for you.”

Second, share my sincere regret. “I am truly so very very sorry for my actions.”

Third, acknowledge the impact on them. “I recognize my actions hurt or disappointed you.”

Fourth, learn and resolve to improve. “With serious reflection, I learned that I need to ponder much more about how my words and actions impact others before I act.”

Fifth, seek forgiveness. “Please forgive me for my mistake.”

To build relationships and create communities (work, family, politics, neighbors), we need to acknowledge personal mistakes and genuinely apologize when needed so we can move on.

What have you learned about an effective apology?

Dave Ulrich

Dave Ulrich

Dave Ulrich is the Rensis Likert Professor at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan and a partner at The RBL Group, a consulting firm focused on helping organizations and leaders deliver value.

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