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How to Apologise

I was recently in the position of having to apologise to a colleague who I had offended. I felt guilty about what I had done, but I am nervous about confrontation so I wrote a note. While writing it down I felt an enormous temptation to justify myself - why couldn't they see how difficult it was for me? - but I realised that excuses like that were not only meaningless, but might easily make me seem insincere in my apology. Fortunately I was able to apologise briefly and (it appears) successfully.

What surprised me was how hard I found it to apologise - not for lack of remorse, but just the complexity of the actual apology, and the struggle against self-justification. A month later I spotted Aaron Lazore's "On Apology" in my local library. Lazore studied historical and personal apologies to try to discover what makes a good apology, and why so many apologies fail. The book is an excellent read, with many examples of successful and unsuccessful apologies in private and …