7 Essential Etiquette Tips for Effectively Apologizing

Style My Soul (StyleMySoul.com)
4 min readSep 19, 2023

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To provide you with the best advice on how to apologize effectively, we asked professionals for their top etiquette tips. From emphasizing body language in apologies to offering a culinary gesture of apology, here are the eight insightful tips they shared.

Emphasize Body Language in Apologies

For psychology and emotional intelligence, body language is a silent, yet profound, communicator. Through my experience in life coaching, I’ve realized that our non-verbal cues often bear the weight of our intentions, sometimes even more than what we say.

Maintaining eye contact during an apology isn’t just looking at someone; it’s a demonstration that you’re fully present, acknowledging the gravity of your actions, and genuinely seeking understanding. Additionally, having an open posture, without crossing your arms, subtly conveys a willingness to be vulnerable, to learn from your mistakes, and to engage in a meaningful dialogue.

Bayu Prihandito, Psychology Expert, Life Coach, Founder, Life Architekture

Express Accountability and Specific Regret

When apologizing, I believe it is essential to express sincere regret and to be specific about the offense. This displays your comprehension of the situation and your determination to make amends.

Assume you’ve been routinely late for a coffee date with a pal. “I’m truly sorry for always being late to our coffee dates,” you could say. “It’s disrespectful of your time, and I realize that. It won’t happen again.” By addressing the specific behavior and acknowledging its impact, you demonstrate that you are not simply apologizing but taking responsibility for your actions.

Cindi Keller, Communications Coordinator, The Criminal Defense Firm

Take Full Responsibility, No Excuses

In my experience, the best way to apologize is to take full responsibility for your actions and not make excuses. When I need to apologize, I’ve learned that it’s important to show that I’m truly sorry and understand how my actions affected the other person. I usually start with “I’m sorry,” and then say what I did wrong in an honest and earnest way. It’s important not to try to get out of taking blame by saying things like, “I’m sorry if you were offended.”

Instead, I tell them, “I’m sorry for what I did, and I know how it hurt you.” Taking responsibility for my mistakes and showing that I’m ready to make things right has helped me grow up and show respect on my journey. It has also helped me communicate better and make up with people when things get tough.

Tim De Visser, Founder, Karpatia Trucks

Present a Future Prevention Strategy

An effective way to apologize, in my opinion, is to not only express regret but also present a strategy for how to avoid making the same mistake again. This demonstrates your dedication to personal development and preventing a repeat of the circumstance. Assume you overlooked your partner’s birthday.

In this scenario, you could remark, “I’m deeply sorry for forgetting your birthday. I’ve put up reminders, so that this doesn’t happen again. I’ll also prepare a special late-night celebration to make amends.” By providing a realistic strategy for improvement, you demonstrate your commitment to addressing the issue and preventing a recurrence.

Timothy Allen, Sr. Corporate Investigator, Corporate Investigation Consulting

Consider Timing and Location of Apology

Consider the moment and location while apologizing. I believe that apologizing privately allows for a more sincere and less humiliating dialogue. Furthermore, find a time when the other person is open and not unduly worried or preoccupied.

For example, if you need to apologize to a coworker for taking credit for their work, you might wait for an ideal break in the day and invite them to a quiet meeting room. This setting allows for a focused dialogue in which both participants can express themselves without distractions. Being mindful of the moment and location shows that you care about the other person’s comfort and feelings, which increases the impact of your apology.

Tiffany Hafler, Marketing Manager, FORTIS Medical Billing

Demonstrate Sincerity and Humility

Be sincere, meaningful, thoughtful, and really mean what you say. Do not come across as arrogant; that’s like throwing gas on a fire. Be humble and express your sincerest form of yourself. This is highly successful and has proven to be a strategy that top-level CEOs not only utilize but also consider as the catalyst in good leadership.

Tammy Sons, CEO, TN Nursery

Offer a Culinary Gesture of Apology

When a situation calls for it, the best way to apologize is the culinary apology. In this apologetic method, you prepare a special meal or bake something good as a sincere gesture of apology.

Sharing food you’ve made demonstrates your commitment to making amends by investing time and effort for the person you’ve hurt. It’s a thoughtful way to convey your remorse and show that you value their feelings.

Steven Wright, Co-Founder and Chief Editor, Lifestyle to the MAX

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