But, as you likely already know, a simple "I'm sorry" said in passing isn't always enough to smooth things over -- especially when the mistake you made was a big one.
So, if you're aiming to express a more genuine and sincere apology (as we all should be!), here are four common mistakes you should avoid.
1. You're Invalidating the Other Person
When you're apologizing for something, it's important to remember that it's more about the other person than it is about you. That means both recognizing and sympathizing with the way he or she is feeling about the situation.
If you've ever heard someone start an apology with something like, "I'm sorry you feel that way" or "I'm sorry if you're offended", you know just how infuriating it can be.
Why? Well, that sort of half-hearted apology puts all of the blame back on the other person -- as if it's his or her fault for responding a certain way, and not your fault for causing the issue in the first place.
So, when apologizing, make sure that you don't invalidate how the other person is feeling. That will only dig you a deeper hole.
2. You Aren't Recognizing Fault
If you're the one apologizing, chances are good that you played a pretty significant part in the entire situation. And, any apology that doesn't allow you to own your role and responsibility is only going to seem disingenuous.
In a similar vein to the point above, you need to be willing to accept fault for the things you did to hurt or offend another person.
Don't try to explain away your actions and offer useless excuses. Don't attempt to argue with how that person is feeling or talk him out of his emotions.
Simply take ownership of your own wrongdoings. That's a crucial part of a sincere apology.
3. You're Hurrying Through It
As mentioned previously, if you have something to be truly apologetic about, a quickly muttered, "I'm sorry" while passing that person on the way to the office break room isn't going to cut it.
A genuine apology requires some thought and time on your end. So, don't try to rush through your apology in attempts to get it over with, sweep everything under the rug, and then move on with your day.
Perhaps you need to schedule a sit-down to properly say "I'm sorry" to the person you've wronged. Or, maybe you should pull her aside after a team meeting.
Only you can judge the appropriate time and place. Just know this: It's probably not when you pass her on the way to the bathroom.
4. You're Repeating the Same Mistake
Remember how your parents would always echo that cliché "Actions speak louder than words" sentiment? Well, it was for good reason -- that advice really holds some water.
How many times have you apologized for something, only to make that same mistake all over again? Or, how many times have you had someone do this very thing to you?
It's irritating, isn't it? Why would someone bother admitting wrong and apologizing, only to do go back and do the same thing?
The most important thing to remember is that you can't just make your apology seem genuine -- you actually need to be genuine. That means not only talking the talk, but also walking the walk.
Do your best to offer a sincere apology and then put the steps in place to make sure that you avoid that same problem in the future. That alone will help your apologies carry more weight moving forward.
Swallowing your pride and apologizing isn't always easy. But, if you're going to do it, you want to make sure that you are as genuine as possible.
Avoid these four common mistakes, and your apologies will definitely make an impact.