How to: apologize

In An Exploration of the Structure of Effective Apologies

, written by business school academics from Ohio State and Eastern Kentucky U and published in Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, the authors report on two studies that trace the reactions of 755 subjects to apologies based and report on the six factors most likely to assuage a wounded party.

These six factors -- regret, explanation, taking responsibility, repenting, offering repair and asking for forgiveness -- were strongly correlated with effective apology, but two of those factors -- taking responsibility and offering to make things better -- swamped the other four factors.

In two separate experiments, Lewicki and his co-authors tested how 755 people reacted to apologies containing anywhere from one to all six of these elements:

1. Expression of regret

2. Explanation of what went wrong

3. Acknowledgment of responsibility

4. Declaration of repentance

5. Offer of repair

6. Request for forgiveness

​The 6 elements of an effective apology, according to science
[Jeff Grabmeier/Ohio State University]

An Exploration of the Structure of Effective Apologies

[Roy J. Lewicki, Beth Polin and Robert B. Lount/Negotiation and Conflict Management Research]