How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
When things go wrong, we often make excuses, yet often the best approach when we are at fault is to own up and apologize.
There are three types of apology, as described below. Fehr and Gefland (2010) found that which of these should be used is best based on key aspects of the victim's personality.
Walfisch et al (2013) found that the less expected the apology, the more effective it usually is, particularly when the apologizer is a male, a manager or is a male apologizing to a female.
Acknowledgement is not only owning up to wrong-doing but also recognizing the rules or norms that have been broken.
Acknowledgement apology is best used with people who see themselves as a part of a larger collective.
I'm sorry I went into your room when we all agreed we should stay out of each others' private spaces.
I took your hairbrush without asking which is kind of stealing, really. I'm sorry.
Empathetic apology recognizes how the victim feels and places emphasis on apology for distress caused.
Empathy-based apology is best used with people who define themselves in terms of their relationships with others.
I went into your room. You must be upset about the invasion of your private space. I'm sorry.
I took your hairbrush without asking. You must have been annoyed when you found it was gone. Sorry about that.
Compensation apology looks for ways to give something back to redress the balance of fairness.
The compensation approach is best for people who are more individualistic and separate themselves from those around them.
I went into your room without asking. Sorry. How about if we share this bottle of wine I bought.
I used your hairbrush. Sorry. I've cleaned it and put it back now.
Fehr, R. and Gelfand, M. (2010). When apologies work: How matching apology components to victims’ self-construals facilitates forgiveness. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 113, 1, 37-50
Walfisch, T., Van Dijk, D. and Kark, R. (2013). Do you really expect me to apologize? The impact of status and gender on the effectiveness of an apology in the workplace, Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43, 7, 1446–1458