Good Speakers Need To Know How To Give Good Apologies

When we do something wrong, we need to know how to say that we're sorry
When we do something wrong, we need to know how to say that we’re sorry
Image Credit: Rina Pitucci

So when was the last time that you did something that you had to apologize to somebody for doing it? If you are like most of us, it’s probably been awhile – we don’t really like to go to the effort of doing the whole formal apology thing very much. However, as public speakers, if either we’ve done something or an organization that has asked us to give a speech has done something, we may need to use the importance of public speaking to apologize to our audience. What’s the best way of going about doing this?

Knowing That An Apology Is Needed

Perhaps we should start our discussion way back at the very beginning. Just exactly what is an apology? Generally speaking, when we are apologizing for something what we are really doing is telling someone that we are sorry that we offended them in some way or that we failed them in some way. We took an action that we should not have or we didn’t take an action that we should have. We all know what both of these situations feel like, we’ve been there, done that many, many times.

The way that this situation generally unfolds is that either we do something that we regret or a firm that we are speaking for has done something that they now regret. The first thing that has to now happen is that we’ve got to understand the impact that our action has had on the other people. This is generally pretty easy to do. We should be able to see it on their face – are they upset, are they avoiding us, or have they simply become angry with us?

Before we dive into just exactly how to go about making an apology, we need to understand that different people apologize in different ways when they feel that they even need to offer an apology. There are some people who are always apologizing. We need to understand that the people that they are apologizing to will not interpret their apology as being sincere. When you apologize, it’s going to have to come across as though you really mean it.

How To Apologize

The first thing that all of us have to realize that we shouldn’t even bother delivering an apology speech if we are not going to be interpreted as being sincere by our audience. The challenge that we may run into here is that sometimes even a sincere apology can be rejected by an audience. One of the reasons that an audience can reject an apology is because of the body language that we use when we are delivering our apology – does our body agree with the words that are coming out of our mouth?

The second most important thing that you are going to have to know is the audience that you are going to be apologizing to. Before you give your apology speech, take some time to know the people who will be in your audience. Make sure that you know what their viewpoints are and what they really care about. The one thing that you want to avoid doing is delivering an apology for something that they don’t really care about.

Finally, if your apology speech is going to be of any value to anyone, you are going to have to be authentic. Do you understand what you are apologizing for? Do you understand why the audience was so hurt and bothered by what happened? Do you really feel that they were treated badly? By being genuine in your apology you’ll be able to establish a tone of respect and concern for your audience. Make sure that you have a compassionate attitude towards your audience.

What All Of This Means For You

I don’t like having to do them, but there are times that either because of my actions or because of the actions of the organization that I am speaking on the behalf of, an apology to an audience is required and I need to use the benefits of public speaking to make this happen. When I find myself in this tricky situation, I know that I’m going to have to very carefully craft an effective apology speech.

The one thing that I don’t want to come across as to my audience is being someone who is always apologizing and who never means what they say. Instead, when I determine that an apology speech is required, I need to make sure that I come across as being sincere. One way that I can make this happen is by taking time to know who is going to be in my audience and what they really care about. Finally, when I’m delivering my apology I need to come across as being authentic. If I can make this happen then my compassion towards my audience will be felt by them.

No, an apology speech is never an easy thing to do. However, when a situation requires that it be given, then you need to be prepared to deliver a very good apology. Follow the suggestions that we’ve made and you’ll be prepared to deliver a great apology. Once you do this, everyone will be able to move on beyond the incident and start to work together once again. Isn’t that what you really want?

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: How long do you think a good apology speech should be?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I speak English. Unfortunately, all I can speak is English. However, the good news is that I do a pretty good job of speaking English. Whenever I have an opportunity to hear a non-native English speaker deliver a speech, I often find myself starting to think that despite the importance of public speaking how they could have done a better job of using the English Language to get their point across. It turns out that speech and communication specialist Phyllis Thesier has thought the same things. She’s come up with a 5-step method that people can use to improve their English when they are giving a speech.