What Makes A Good Apology? Scratch the But – Be a NARC

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I’m just finishing up an article for my new online workshop that will be released soon about apologies, and I decided to ask some friends what they thought about apologies. Below is a quick snap of some of the early responders.

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I love how Jacki puts it in her comment, “Make it about the person that you’re apologizing to, not you.” Too often, we make apologies about us – about our rationale for doing what we did – trying to explain our reason for doing it which usually ends up with us “trying to skirt the blame” like Christopher is talking about (by the way…have you seen his new café he’s opening?).

Jim is on to something though, take a look at his thoughts about what makes a good apology:

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In my Managing Online Conflict workshop, I’m going to break down an apology a little further so that you can become a NARC when you apologize. What? Yep, that’s right, a NARC, here’s a brief overview:


Apologies need to be natural, no if, and, or but’s about it. Once the person that is being apologized to feels like you’ve “lawyered up” or gets that feeling that you’re only apologizing so that your mom won’t scold you later you’re apology is going to be written off.

Acknowledge Harm

If you’re not acknowledging the harm that you (or your business) need to own, you’re missing your mark. By acknowledging the harm, you are showing that you are listening to that person and that you are owning what is yours within that.


By owning what is yours, you are beginning to show regret to the person by listening to what happened for them (the effect it had on them) and showing that person the regret that you have because of it. Caution: People have fairly good BS readers, so make sure you’re not just saying you regret what you did otherwise, this next step is going to be difficult!


Desmond Tutu has a great quote that says,

If you steal my pen and say “I’m sorry” without returning the pen, your apology means nothing.

There needs to be some commitment behind your apology, some sort of commitment to not do it again. We can apologize, but if we’re not willing to put actions behind our words, they are meaningless.


What do you think? What makes a good apology?

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  • June 17, 2013, 5:06 pm  Reply

    Expressing responsibility with genuine respect for the other person and the effect your choice has had on them. Thanks for triggering this conversation Jason.

    • June 17, 2013, 6:33 pm

      I love that! Thanks Kathy!

  • Meesh
    September 30, 2013, 3:36 pm  Reply

    Apologizing and acknowledging that you were wrong can be so difficult. Sometimes the other person needs to apologize too, but I always feel better when I apologize for the things for which I am responsible. Apologies can cause such stress; bad ones, missing in action apologies, or leading up to a deserved apology. Thanks for the post Jason!

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