How to say sorry like you mean it

  • Marie Claire is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.
  • Is it too late now to say sorry? No. Here's how

    Elton John had it in a nutshell when he said ‘sorry seems to be the hardest word’. Apologies are tricky, and if you’re cursed with RBF (that’s resting bitch face) they can just come off as insincere.

    Luckily, researchers from the University of Ohio are here to help, as they reckon they’ve cracked the code for making an apology sound meaningful. According to Roy Lewicki, lead author of the study and professor of management and human resources at the university’s business school, there are six key elements to a good apology. Let’s take them step-by-step.

    Express regret

    First off, admit that you messed up. Remember when Hagrid accidentally let slip about the philosophers stone being at Gringott’s? Channel that feeling.

    Explain what went wrong

    There’s nothing more awkward than apologising for completely the wrong thing. Establish exactly what it is you’re apologising for early on, so they’ve got a chance to set you straight.

    Acknowledge your responsibility

    There’s nothing worse than a half-baked apology. You might as well say, “Sorry you’re so oversensitive”. Lewicki says, ‘Our findings showed that the most important component is an acknowledgement of responsibility. Say it is your fault, that you made a mistake.’

    Say you want to change

    There’s no point apologising for something you’re only going to do again in a week. Vow to make some changes, so the person knows that you’re on the path to no longer being a douchebag.

    Offer to fix things

    ‘Talk is cheap,’ says Lewicki. ‘But by saying, “I’ll fix what is wrong,” you’re committing to take action to undo the damage.’ Spend a little time and effort thinking about how to fix the situation, even if it puts you out.

    Ask for forgiveness

    This is the weakest element of your apology, but it’s always worth tagging it on at the end. It puts the ball firmly in their court, and makes you look even more pathetic. Now is the time to swallow your pride and grovel like you have no shame.

    Reading now