A sincere apology has a specific form, featuring four elements. It is a true apology, unlike other types of apologies offered more as a means to an end than as an expression of genuine regret. These pseudo-apologies are made for the benefit of the person offering them, not for the person who was wronged. The person making the phony apology just wants the situation to go away and to not have to deal with the consequences of his behavior. To offer a sincere apology to your girlfriend, you'll need to show true remorse.
Acknowledge the Deed and Its Impact
An apology should state the specific wrong and its impact, acknowledging both the deed and its result, according to Dr. John Grohol, founder and CEO of Psych Central in the article "How to Make an Adept, Sincere Apology." Saying simply that you're sorry she's upset is not a real apology because it makes no connection between her being upset and what you did or said. Trying to apologize without actually admitting any wrongdoing reeks of insincerity. When you state exactly the actions or words you are apologizing for and their effect on your girlfriend, she'll know that you really thought about your behavior and her wants, needs and feelings.
Clearly Claim Responsibility
Demonstrate your sincerity by clearly and completely accepting responsibility for the behavior you're apologizing for, suggests Beverly Engel, author of the book "The Power of Apology: Healing Steps to Transform All Your Relationships," in the article "How to Give a Meaningful Apology," published by the University of Massachusetts Amherst Family Business Center. Don't try to shift the blame for your actions elsewhere. If you say that you wouldn't have done this if she hadn't said that, it sounds as though you are partially justifying your actions or placing responsibility for them on her. This is likely to upset her further, and if you give the impression of being unwilling to accept responsibility for your actions, she will probably doubt the sincerity of your apology.
It Takes More Than Words
Saying you're sorry is just part of the apology equation. A sincere apology also includes a specific plan to right the wrong. If you broke it, fix it. If you lost it, replace it. Of course, not everything is that simple to set right. If the solution isn't obvious or you're not sure how your girlfriend would like you to make up for the wrong, ask her. Some things just can't be fixed. In those cases, explain to her that you realize you can't change what has been done, but you would like to do something special for her to show that you truly are sorry.
Share Your Plan
The final part of your apology should offer a plan or strategy to avoid repeating the wrong. Saying that you won't do it again isn't enough. Explain exactly how you will make sure that it doesn't happen again. If your big dog hurt her small dog, let her know that you've bought a muzzle that he'll wear whenever her dog is around. If you yelled at her during an argument, explain your time-out strategy for when you feel yourself getting angry enough to yell. Have a clear-cut plan of action to present to her when you apologize.
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