June 16, 2009

The ingredients of an apology

Posted: 02:19 PM ET

Comedian David Letterman did it in front of a national audience for making a joke about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's daugher. House Speaker Newt Gingrich did it for calling Judge Sonia Sotomayor a racist.

Apologizing for saying something that is hurtful and insensitive to someone is the higher road a person can, and should, take. But what is the best way to apologize? According to, a good apology — whether it is in person, written or over the phone — actually has parts. According to, a person should:

  • Give a short, but detailed account of the situation. If you missed an important date for someone, apologize for that specific event, not being a forgetful person
  • Acknowledge that person(s) was hurt
  • Take responsibility of your role in the situation, and don't offer excuses
  • Include the words "I am sorry" or "I apologize"
  • Add a promise at the end that it won't happen again
  • Ask for forgiveness, this gives the recipient control and power

Regardless of whether you thought the apology was merited, Letterman gave one on his show. Did it have all the parts of a perfect apology? Watch it again to find out.

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