The Power of Apology
By Ashleigh Barry
Resolution is a limited possibility without an act of apology. People spend too much time in heated debates which are escalated because feelings of hurt and anger will often override a person’s rational judgement and sometimes logical thinking.
An apology only seems to ring true when the offender has taken the time to analyze their decision by reflecting on their actions and are remorseful for those actions. Without the introspection the apology will feel false because it lacks power and legitimacy.
There are five elements to a true apology:
- Acknowledgement: The offender recognizes that they committed an offense and that the relationship between themselves and the offended parties is damaged.
- Responsibility: The offender acknowledges their actions without diminishing their role in the actions that took place and is troubled by their own actions.
- Remorse and Vulnerability: The offender performs an act of contrition knowing that the decision of forgiveness is up to the offended and may not be granted.
- Exchange of Shame and Power: The offender took power from the offended person when they committed the act against them. By apologizing they are giving back the power they stole from the offended.
- Restitution: Damages are owed for the hurt caused by the offender, this can either be shown by compensation or changed behavior.
Mediation as well as peace circles are a more productive way of getting an apology from someone because the environment is more conducive to both parties talking to each other and understanding where the other side is coming from instead of a third party dictating the outcome. While some issues are not appropriate for mediation and need a third party to issue a judgement on the outcome, mediation and peace circles often allow for easier access to attain an apology.
Engel Beverly, The Power of Apology, Psychology Today, July 1 2002, https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200207/the-power-apology
Schneider Carl D., What It Means to be Sorry: The Power of Apology in Mediation, January 2006, http://www.mediate.com/articles/schneiderc1.cfm