Apology Research – How to do it Well !


Have you ever offered an apology that fell flat?  That made someone madder?  Well, it turns out there are specific components to an effective apology.  These are the findings of a recently published article on an “apology” research project in the journal Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, Vol. 9, No. 2 (May 2016). The result – there are six substantive elements to an apology with some more important than others.

Professor Emeritus Roy Lewicki (lead author) and Associate Professor Robert Lount of Management and Human Resources at The Ohio State University and Assistant Professor of Management Beth Polin of Eastern Kentucky University conducted two separate experiments of how people reacted to apologies made up of different elements. The study of 755 people found the following six elements of an effective apology:

1. Expression of regret
2. Explanation of what went wrong
3. Acknowledgement of responsibility
4. Declaration of repentance
5. Offer of repair
6. Request for forgiveness

According to Professor Lewicki – “Apologies really do work, but you should make sure you hit as many of the six key components as possible.” (The Ohio State University Newsroom)  The research also identified acknowledgment of responsibility as most important with offer of repair the next most significant.

Thus, the next time you apologize, try to include all six elements, but if you can’t fit them all in, make sure to acknowledge your responsibility and make an offer of repair.

Good luck with your next apology!