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August 28, 2007

Sad Puppy One of the hardest things to do in life is to apologize. Yes, you recognize that you may need to offer an apology, but should you apologize? And if so, how should you apologize?

The reason why apologizing can be so difficult is because of that combination of personal pride, shame and even fear that often gets in the way of building better relationships. You may know you need to say something, but what's the appropriate thing to say and do?

If you're someone like Dean Barnett (pictured above right), apologizing is a frequently practiced event for which you've overcome your innate fears through repetition. But if you're not as seasoned as Dean Barnett, apologies can be a lot harder to accomplish.

Once again, Political Calculations enters into the realms of personal interaction where normal people fear to tread! We've converted Geek Logik author Garth Sundem's math into a tool you can use to counter the forces of fear, uncertainty, shame and your personal pride in deciding not just if you should apologize, but also how.

Factors that Can Affect Your Decision to Apologize
Input Data Values
How big of a deal was the issue?
(1-10 with 1 being "forgot to take out trash before work" and 10 being "forgot to turn off the gas before leaving for vacation.")
Actual responsibility
(On a scale of 1-10, how responsible are you in reality for this blunder?)
Perceived responsibility
(On a scale of 1-10, how responsible does your significant other perceive you to be in this matter?)
How pissed off is your significant other?
(1-10 with 10 being "mail-order thumb screws have already arrived.")

Should You Apologize?
Calculated Results Values
Your Apology Factor
What You Should Do

Your Personal Apology Action Strategy

Apology Effectiveness Scale If you scored an apology factor less than one, you've lucked out and an apology is not required. For the sake of good manners though, you should at least acknowledge the situation, for example if you missed trash pickup service on Wednesday, you could say "I should take out the garbage on Tuesday evening." There's no apology in that statement, but there's a recognition there that may help defuse any building pressure within the person to whom you would be apologizing!

An apology factor between 1 and 5 means that you can get by simply by saying "I'm sorry." Do be aware though that any repeated occurrences of whatever event made this step necessary means that you need to increase your Perceived Responsibility score. The resulting increase in your apology factor score may require you to ramp up to the next level of your personal apology action strategy.

If your apology factor came in somewhere between 5 and 10, your advice is to prepare some remarks to deliver with sincerity. To get you started, a tool you might find useful is Mark's Apology Note Generator.

The trick though is to deliver the words with sincerity, so at the very least, you might need to rewrite your apology statement to at least sound like something you might say, taking care not to go too far and say something too much like you would say, and thereby make matters worse.

Remember, an apology requires you to break from your usual behavior to acknowledge another individual's anger/injury/etc. You don't want to throw more fuel on that fire. Apologies aren't natural, so they shouldn't sound you're going about your usual business!

And then, there are those of you who have earned an apology factor greater than 10. For you, it's more a matter of how far you've blown past this threshold. Consider the following list as a general guide to what you may need to include for your all out apology:

  1. A highly effective apology
  2. Flowers
  3. Chocolates
  4. Cleaning things that aren't dirty.
  5. Tickets for two to something you would never go see of your own free will.
  6. ???

Basically, if your personal apology factor is way higher than 10, you need to do it all, and soon!


The image in this post showing the levels of effective apology came from A.J. Meier's Conflict and the Power of Apologies.

Another interesting resource for how to apologize is available at wikihow, which also offers some unique how-to articles in this area, including: how to apologize, how to apologize effectively, and how to apologize for cheating on your partner.

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About Political Calculations

Welcome to the blogosphere's toolchest! Here, unlike other blogs dedicated to analyzing current events, we create easy-to-use, simple tools to do the math related to them so you can get in on the action too! If you would like to learn more about these tools, or if you would like to contribute ideas to develop for this blog, please e-mail us at:

ironman at politicalcalculations.com

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