10 Proven Ways to Master the Art of Apology and Restore Relationships

such as “The Art of Apologizing in Business and Personal Relationships”, “Importance of Humility and Learning from Mistakes”, “Avoiding the Pitfalls of a Bad Apology” and “The Benefits of Saying Sorry”.

Have you noticed how obsessed we all are with getting things right? Not only that but doing the right thing quicker and better than ever before. Everywhere you turn, there are books, magazines, and blogs dedicated to making sure we have the secrets of success so we don’t screw up. In the face of all this rampant perfectionism, it’s easy to overlook the importance of being okay without getting it wrong now and then.

To Err is human

The reality is, we are bound to make mistakes. Being able to see that we (may) have made an error of judgment is a good thing. Not least because it keeps our ego in check and teaches us some humility. In business, the old saying “the customer is always right” still holds true. Customer service, or lack thereof, can make or break a company. At the foundation of good customer service is the ability to apologize and to do it well.

The Art of Apologizing in Business and Personal Relationships

Apologizing is an art form. It’s not just about saying, “I’m sorry” and moving on. It takes effort and thoughtfulness to apologize well. Sincerity and taking full responsibility are key elements of a good apology. Acknowledging the hurt or damage caused, asking for forgiveness, and making restitution are also important. It’s not just what you say but how you say it. Timing is everything. An apology that comes too late can be seen as insincere.

In a 2006 Inc. article, Allison Stein Wellner referred to research by Jennifer K. Robbennolt, a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law. In a study of apology letters written after a hypothetical accident, Wellner discovered that victims who received a partial apology (interpreted as “I’m sorry if you think I should apologize“) were actually less likely to accept a settlement offer than those who received no apology at all.

The Benefits of Saying Sorry

Not only is apologizing the right thing to do, but in some cases, it actually pays to apologize. Take the world of medical malpractice, where the traditional consensus amongst attorneys defending doctors who were being sued used to be to advocate silence. However, some more recent research has challenged this way of thinking. One of the most famous cases is the VA Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. The Lexington VA has a policy surrounding medical error which actually encourages communication of sympathy and admissions of fault. Not only that but the VA is proactive in disclosing errors and offers help on how to file a claim.

“This policy of extreme honesty, practiced since the late 1980s, has reportedly reduced lawsuits and settlement and defense costs. Only three cases have gone to trial in 17 years, with the average settlement being $16,000, compared with the national VA average of $98,000.” (Robert J Walling and Shawna S. Ackerman, 2006).

Avoiding the Pitfalls of a Bad Apology

Of course, not all apologies are created equal, and sometimes, apologizing can be detrimental in some circumstances. For instance, a bad apology can be counterproductive. In business, a partial apology or an insincere one can make matters worse. Lauren Bloom, attorney, ethics expert, and author of the Art of Apology ebook describes the “if/any game” as one of the apology errors that politicians frequently make when they say, “if my actions offended anybody, then I apologize.”


In conclusion, saying sorry might not always be easy, but it’s essential if we want to cultivate healthy relationships and grow as individuals. Owning our mistakes takes strength and courage. It equips us with the ability to see things from more than one perspective. It offers the opportunity to cultivate persistence and not to quit. At the end of the day, sometimes it simply comes down to this, “Would you rather be right or be happy?”

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