Aaron Lazare devotes two full chapters of On Apology and much of his subsequent research to questions of timing and delay. He finds that effective apologies typically contain four parts:
1. Acknowledge that you did it.
2. Explain what happened.
3. Express remorse.
4. Repair the damage, as much as you can.
This aligns with previous research on effective apologies:
Results indicated that relationships recovered significantly when offending partners used behaviors labeled as explicit acknowledgment, nonverbal assurance, and compensation.
What also turns out to be crucial is the timing of apologies — faster is not better. People need to feel they are heard and understood so a delayed apology is more satisfying.
The results were stark: “Apology timing was positively correlated with outcome satisfaction; when the apology came later in the conflict…
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