How to Apologise

This morning I read a really nice inspiring article from Kate Nasser via Twitter. You can read it here: “Teamwork: Making Apologies Worthy of Acceptance”.

The article outlines the kinds of behaviours you see in good teams, in particular with regard to respect, appreciation, ownership and caring. I really liked the ideas behind the post and wanted to add here a simple formula for well-delivered apologies. You can include the pointers from Kate’s post and if you use this formula for delivery, you are bound to be authentic.


Good apologies are like good constructive feedback – the process is the same.

So, lets start by seeing how to give good feedback. It’s easy to do in 4 steps:

  1. Outline the behaviour/performance you are talking about. For example: “Your time management is not very good.”
  2. Give an example that explains (1). For example: You have been late by more than 30 minutes 3 times this week.”
  3. Outline the consequences of (1). For example: “As a result, your colleagues have been under pressure at the check-out during peak hours.”
  4. Think about the future and required performance/behaviour. For example, make a suggestion, discuss together or simply delegate the task future improvement.

( a side-note, the above process is the same for feedback about positive performance).


When you apologise, it is important to be precise about what you are apologising for and show that you understand the consequence of your actions.

That’s why the feedback process is so useful. Let’s see an example…

  1. Outline the behaviour/performance you are talking about. For example: “I realise that I was rude to you earlier…”
  2. Give an example that explains (1). For example: “…when I said you were stupid and childish.”
  3. Outline your understanding of the consequences of (1). For example: “I can imagine that you felt hurt or upset due to my unkindess.”
  4. Say something about the future. For example: “I am going to make an effort to be more respectful in the way I talk to people.”


…and then say the magic word: “Sorry”


If you do all this (including Kate’s pointers) you’ll be on the track to giving real authentic and valuable apologies.

Good luck!


Thanks for reading.

You can follow me on Twitter.

Please leave a comment.


Published by Dan Steer

For the last 17 years, I have been helping businesses and individuals to achieve their goals through delivery of tailor-made learning and development initiatives. Most of the time, I deliver training, coach individuals, facilitate brainstorming sessions, round-table meetings and workshops. As a consultant, I help my clients to promote and profit from the infinite learning opportunities within and without their own organisation, drawing on my L+D management experience, strategic approach and creativity, As a speaker, I inspire through story, humour and pertinent little bits of theory. I believe that the world would be a better place if people were happily working on their mission with competence and alignment to personal values. As a freelance worker since 2008, I have helped more than 11000 individuals to improve their presentation, communication, commercial, leadership and negotiation skills. I confront people with their own behaviour and convictions, facilitating and giving pertinent feedback and clear ideas on where to continue good work and improve. I seek to satisfy my clients with creative and to-the-point solutions… …and I make music, but no-one pays me much for it yet :-) First single here:

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