Apologizing to anyone is difficult. When the apology has to be given to a good friend, it is worse. The risk that the friendship could sustain further damage from a botched apology looms large. The level of guilt from whatever caused the need to apologize to a good friend adds another layer of difficulty. Following these 5 tips will not fix every dent in the relationship, but it may help you to avoid some of the pitfalls.
Give your friend a little time to cool down.
If you are having to think about apologizing, it means that you either did not or could not fix the problem right on the spot. Unless you have some compelling reason to be together every day, you are better off to let a day or two pass. This will let your friend’s anger subside. It will give you time to plan your apology. Apologies are always best when you do not have to apologize later for the bad job of apologizing. Think it through. You may need to write it down so you can rehearse it a few times to get it right.
Apologizing is best if the problem can be fixed first or at the same time.
Harsh words or destruction of prized property cannot always be repaired. However, many things that happen between friends can be fixed. If you took a side against your friend in a situation, you may be able to change your position and be supportive to your friend. Damage to a car or property many times can be repaired. Either having this done or offering to pay for it, can remove at least one point of contention before the apology is made. This can sometimes be done at the time the apology is offered to add a dimension of sincerity.
For some good friends, a long-distance apology is best.
While most people find that face-to-face apologies are preferred, apologizing from a distance can be better for others. Sending a carefully crafted letter or note to the offended friend can be a way to apologize without confrontation. Eventually, the letter will need to be followed by a personal visit for the rift to be healed.
Some people find that apologizing by telephone can be effective. Because the telephone eliminates facial expressions and body language from the equation, there is less to have to control to make the apology be received as sincere. Only the voice needs to be controlled. Using either of these types of communication to express an apology carries their own form of risk. Written words cannot be instantly explained if misunderstood. If a wrong word is spoken over the phone, it is easier to hang up on someone than it is to walk away.
Do not expect an apology in return.
People tend to use an apology to fish for one from others. A genuine apology does not anticipate being reciprocated. If you are really sorry for what you have done, it should be assumed that the apology is to ask forgiveness for your mistake. The apology should not be filled with “buts” to let the other person know that they bear part of the blame. You apologize for your part. If a return apology is required, it should come voluntarily from the other party. If an apology is forcefully extracted from the other person, it will lack sincerity and will only do more harm to the friendship.
Remember that an apology is the beginning not the end of the friendship repair effort.
Saying, “I’m sorry,” does not really fix anything. It just opens the door so that the repairs can be made. Often after an apology, trust has to be rebuilt. Hurt feelings need time to heal. Embarrassment may require some effort to forget. An apology must be accepted to be effective. This can take more than an instant. Even a good friend may ask for a day or two to consider whether to allow the apology to be enough to fix the damage. Not all friendships can be saved. It will take work after the apology to restore the closeness of the relationship.