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10 Ways to Apologize Appropriately

How to Recognize Forgiveness in a World of Misinterpretation

After a recent conversation with one of my divorced guy friends, I realized he was still seething with anger toward his ex-wife. It’d been four years since the divorce.

I didn’t understand how someone could love someone so deeply at one point, celebrate that love through the grand ritual of marriage, bring children into the world and then reach another point where he hated that same person so deeply.

9 out of 10 dentists agree. Hurt people hurt people which leads to no smiles for Rufus.

These sorts of feelings couldn’t be good for him - not for his karma, not for that future relationship with that twenty-two year old from OKCupid and definitely not for his blood pressure. I figured there were a lot of other guys out there feeling the exact same way.

Which is why I decided to do something about it.

When my book, The Bohemian Love Diaries (which chronicles my history of failed love relationships), was released last month, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to track down my exes during my national book tour, request a sit down, and extend an olive branch.

I planned to post my voyeuristic apologies on Youtube as a way to jump start a sort of global karmic cleaning process for anyone who might need it. Maybe I could provide a virtual space for dudes who might be too nervous to apologize face to face. Then, my idea grew. I turned it into a contest. The winner of the best apology would get $1,000 and a karmic cleaning repayment stub. This is the video I made for it:

The idea looked really great on paper. In fact, it looked sensational. The kind of sensational that reality television addicts like myself crave. Which is why I soon found myself talking on the phone for nearly an hour with the segment producer for the Today Show.

She thought it was perfect for Kathie Lee & Hoda in all the ways that primetime perfection works over a glass of wine at eleven in the morning. Unfortunately, it would prove to look better on paper than in application.

The videos started to roll in and with them emails from those who made them. Here are a few:

Nearly everyone said the process helped them let go of negativity in some profound way. A few people wrote and said something surprising had happened since posting their video. An ex from middle school had mysteriously called them or written them or run into the them.

When I filmed a few of my own though, the videos ended up being almost too awkward to watch. They were even harder to make. Here's one sample:

I started having second thoughts.

Then, the unexpected happened.

People from my past started sending me apologies (if you can even call them that) - many of them were little more that passive-aggressive confessions disguised as apologies.

I realized that given the opportunity to mend things, most of the world just doesn’t know how to apologize. Hurt people tend to hurt people and wear it as sort of a badge of honor. Which is why I created this post and dedicate it to everyone who's eyes for forgiveness are bigger than their actual appetite.

1. Total Recall: If you've broken some of your own rules and you're in the wrong, accept responsibility. When you say, “Well, I’m just honest and some people can’t handle honesty” or “Everything happens for a reason and I wouldn’t go back and change a thing.” That’s not an apology. That’s your problem getting in the way of your apology. Forgiveness is always all-or-nothing.

2. Be Loquacious Now: Your best shot at rebuilding any kind of relationship is being transparent even if it hurts or makes you squirm. Explain everything. Explanations help. Excuses deflect.

3. Genuine Contrition: Anyone who’s been on the receiving end of the comment “I’d like to apologize for my part in what happened” knows that few things are less likely to evoke forgiveness than blame sharing. Don’t avoid responsibility for your bad behavior by suggesting the other person was at fault too. Set down your sword and notice what it’s like to be vulnerable. Anything less is a total waste of time.

Was that so hard to write those 7 letters on your hands and hold them up for all the world to see?

4. Leave the Light On...with cookies:

Just because you apologize doesn’t mean your apology will be accepted. Sometimes people want to forgive you, but they still need time to process your apology. And just because someone accepts your apology doesn't mean they've fully forgiven you. It can sometimes take a long, long, long time, which is why you should leave the light on.... with cookies. This gives the other person the "power" in determining the outcome of the situation... and the cookies.

Was that so hard to write those 7 letters on your hands and hold them up for all the world to see?

4. Leave the Light On...with cookies:

5. Apologize the Right Way: Using a few, simple fifth grader sentences that lead to a transition works best. For example, "I'm sorry I said you looked like a priate ship when you asked for extra guacamole at Chipolte. I have no excuse for judging you. Please, forgive me and give me a chance to make things right.” And then, "Let's go get some Boba Tea. My treat."

6. End with Gratitude: Hearts break in a different way than a glass vase. This is why you should take your lead from Frog & Toad. This alone has incredible healing power. Even if it feels like you’re getting punched in the stomach over and over again it helps to say all the ways you really appreciate the other person being in your life.

7. Express Your Love: The word "love" is like a balm. Use it.

Just because you build your neon sign, doesn't mean people will look at it.

8.Consult the Official Apology Lame-o-meter:

Just because you build your neon sign, doesn't mean people will look at it.

8.Consult the Official Apology Lame-o-meter:

  • In Person = Most Awesomest
  • On the Phone = Awesome
  • With a Handwritten Letter = A Little Less Awesome
  • A Mixed-tape CD = Still Awesome
  • Recordable Cards = Less than Still Awesome
  • Thru an Email = Lame
  • With a Text = More Lame
  • In a Facebook Status Update = Lamer than More Lame
  • In a Tweet = Much More Lame than Lamer
  • Through a Linkedin message = The Lamest

9. Choose to Forgive: In Mother Teresa's poem, Anyway she says, “People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered; Forgive them anyway.” The same way many people need to learn how to apologize, the lesson for others is learning how to forgive.

10. When in Doubt, Apologize.

For a more developed social media picture of Slash Coleman, the author of this blog, check out all of his adventures on: Twitter: twitter/Slashcoleman - Facebook: facebook/slashtiphercoleman Pinterest: pinterest/slashcoleman - Website: