All too often we sit and wait, pensive at times while other times patient…and for what?

The elusive apology.

I say elusive because often it gets lost in the mail, cyberspace or the literal space between someone’s ears. The point is this:

Apologies are great and when they are truly warranted, it can feel like a rainbow magically appears above your head. However, when it doesn’t – it’s the opposite effect, causing doom, gloom and usually a healthy dose of anger to accompany what can only be described as the loss of a friend, partner or other venture.

The funny thing about life and apologies in particular is that they are as unique as the person delivering them and that’s perfectly fine as that’s how it should be. As I was thinking about this topic it occurred to me that there must be some underlying science, research, data or a blogger out there who has figured out the best practices and mechanics to delivering the best apology possible.

At first I simply relied on what I was told growing up, which was:

  • Say you are sorry (ie: show humility)
  • Admit it was your fault (ie: take accountability).
  • Ask what you can do to make it right (ie: show sincerity).

On the surface this sounds good but when you dig into it, it’s riddled with problems. For example:

  • People say they are sorry when they don’t mean it leaving the other person not receiving it.
  • Most people’s egos are hardwired to protect themselves so admitting fault is tricky especially in verbalizing it to another.
  • Making it right should be (IMHO) something you have thought about before apologizing. Why make the person you hurt do work?

I came across something that I had never seen but apparently is incredibly popular, so forgive me for sharing but it’s quite useful. It’s called the PANDA method:

P: Promise It Will Never Happen Again.

In giving an authentic apology, you are saying that given the same circumstances, you would make a different, better, and wiser decision. Verbalize this and let the other person know you are aware of what you did and the impact it’s caused them.

A: Admit You Were at Fault.

Retrace your steps and describe exactly why what you did was wrong. A little acknowledgment and empathy can go a very long way and by showing the other person you remember what unfolded, it adds a layer of sincerity to the situation.

N: No Excuses.

There are simply no excuses when it comes to this point. If you find yourself hesitant if not impeded to move forward then chances are you aren’t ready to apologize. An apology should only consist of you or the word “I” in the beginning. The rest of the statement should be about the other person and how you made them feel.

D. Describe How You Would Handle the Situation Next Time.

Owning your sh*t is one thing. Learning from it is another entirely. Showing (by telling) the other person how you would do it differently next time should there be one adds a layer of authenticity, maturity and responsibility to your apology while hopefully instilling some ease in the other individual.

A. Act On Your Promise.

Actions are truly louder than words and short of providing the noble peace prize of apologies, the other person is going to wait and see which version of you shows up next time. This is human nature so don’t take it personally but be a person who cares because in the end this is your reputation on the line and if you truly meant this person no harm you will do what’s necessary to avoid a repeat performance.


Final thought: Even this framework is flawed, simply by the fact that no matter what the structure of the apology – the person delivering it, must mean it – period. If they aren’t sincere, don’t waste everyone’s time. The other key element to remember here is that this is not a one and done event. Many times, apologies don’t land the first time or the second or even the third. Be prepared to dig in for a while if the circumstances require it. Lastly, just because you are ready to apologize – doesn’t mean the other person is ready to accept it.

The floor is yours: What’s your best practice for apologizing?

Please leave your comment below as your insights are greatly appreciated and a learning opportunity for everyone reading this article.

With leadership,

Joshua / www.JoshHMiller.com

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