We’ve all been there. You’ve done or said something wrong and you know you owe someone a bit of a ‘sorry’.
But what’s the best way to do it? A big gesture? Maybe a long-winded speech, or perhaps a gift?
Apparently not, according to etiquette expert William Hanson.
Speaking on the latest episode of Yahoo UK’s podcast Britain Is a Nation Of…, Mr Hanson says a simple ‘sorry’ can go a long way.
His suggestion is sightly different from some other research, which suggests that an apology needs SIX elements if it’s going to be effective.
Research by the Fisher College of Business and Ohio State University found that there are six components to an apology and the more of them you include when you say you’re sorry, the more effective your apology will be.
They include: an expression of regret; explanation of what went wrong; acknowledgement of responsibility; declaration of repentance; offer of repair and request for forgiveness.
But the research, published in May 2016 in the journal Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, did admit that if you’re pressed for time or space, two of those will do – admitting it was your fault and offering to put it right.
“Our findings showed that the most important component is an acknowledgement of responsibility. Say it is your fault, that you made a mistake,” said Roy Lewicki, lead author of the study and professor emeritus of management and human resources at Fisher College of Business.
He added: “One concern about apologies is that talk is cheap. But by saying, ‘I’ll fix what is wrong,’ you’re committing to take action to undo the damage.”
Listen to the full episode of Britain is a Nation of… below
But for William Hanson, it can be even more simple than that.
Speaking on the podcast, he said: “I think the most effective type of apology is literally just saying, ‘I’m sorry’ – making eye contact with someone and saying, ‘look I’m sorry’. You don’t need to say anything else more than that, certainly not initially.
“I think the more you perhaps explain, if you do start doing that entire declaration and all that stuff, I think I would have lost the will to live if someone had started going through all of that whilst they were apologising to me.
“I would just rather that they committed the offence again than go through it all.”