Throw Your Hand in the Air Like You Just Do Care—Tips for an Effective Apology

While some people say the ‘throw your hands in the air’ lyric is played out, I’m not here to talk about its musical merits. Today, I’m going to talk about how it can be applied to making an effective apology.

Let’s back up: this past week I ended up in a situation where—in defiance of the space/time continuum—I found myself committed to being in two places at the same time this coming October.

Dang that space/time continuum.

Suffice to say, I had to make a super-hard decision. And even though everyone involved was lovely, I felt like a failure.

As I set about cleaning up the mess, it was important to apologize. Most importantly, it was important to apologize effectively.

For better or worse, over the years, I have had to make a number of apologies and so, have found the following guidelines are helpful when attempting a successful apology:

  1. Put your hand in the air. Don’t pretend it’s not happening or it’s not your fault.
  2. Don’t make excuses. While there may be many, many reasons why something occurred, they are not critical to making your apology effective.
  3. Don’t expect—or ask—others to absolve you. While you may feel hideously sorry (I do), all you can do is say you’re sorry. Don’t follow up with “I hope you can forgive me.” Or “I’m just as disappointed as you are.” or some such. This is not about you and your feelings.

And while I hope that none of you are faced with having to apologize to anyone for anything anytime soon, I hope that if you do, these guidelines are helpful.


For more on apologies—effective and not so much—take a look at “Wow, What a Week of Apologies! Let’s Take a Look at What Worked—and What Didn’t.”