Apologies are one of the Magic 5, a set of old-school tools detailed in my Fixing Fractures book. Apologies are offered during negotiation (Step 7 of the Resolution Protocol) and can have a seismic influence on the outcome of a tough talk.
What works when it comes to apologies? What’s unsatisfactory? Good questions.
When you say “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I’m sorry I made you feel that way”, what’s the tenor of that? You’re really saying that the other person is wrong to be upset, but you’re willing to say something mollifying, if it’ll help.
How about, “If I’ve done anything that upset you, I’m sorry.” Is this satisfying to the person sitting across from you? Does it work to move the conversation toward completion?
Try this one on: “I did not think about or consider you at all when I spoke harshly at the dinner that night. I know my thoughtlessness really hurt you. I also need to express this regret to the others who were there. I’ll do that. I should have had more perspective. I’m very sorry.”
There’s more about what constitutes a real Apology in Fixing Fractures, and a video coming soon.