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The best way to apologize (according to science)

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Over the years, people have come up with some truly awful apologies. From classic non-apologies, to evasive excuses, and flimsy corporate promises, it’s all too easy to give a bad apology. Good apologies generally share certain elements, and considering these factors can help you make amends in a variety of situations. Explore what to do— and not to do— in order to deliver an authentic apology.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Kelso Harper
  • Director Vitalii Nebelskyi
  • Narrator Jack Cutmore-Scott
  • Storyboard Artist Solomia Zarazivska, Maxym Hnatyk
  • Animator Eugene Shargorodskiy, Ivan Masalitin, Anna Khomenko
  • Art Director Vitalii Nebelskyi
  • Composer Salil Bhayani, cAMP Studio
  • Sound Designer Chengqing Zhu, cAMP Studio
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Producer Anna Bechtol
  • Associate Producer Abdallah Ewis
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Fact-Checker Charles Wallace
  • Expert Consultant Karina Schumann
Additional Resources for you to Explore
From friendships to work relationships to romantic partnerships, apologies are central to the maintenance of peace and mutual respect between people. Even so, human beings have been historically bad at delivering proper apologies to those they have wronged.

 Delivering a good apology requires one to first recognize the right moments and reasons to apologize, and then properly employ each of the foundational elements of an apology. While the Association for Psychological Science lists six key facets of an apology, other sources pare it down to fewer ingredients. Regardless, accepting responsibility and offering some kind of amends make their way into all iterations of a suitable mea culpa.

 Psychologists have found correlations between certain personality traits — such as honesty, humility, and guilt proneness — with the proclivity to apologize. Apology avoiders, in turn, are often protective of self-image, or generally perceive an apology as an ineffective course of action. Whether or not an apology is issued, however, the wronged party always has the choice to forgive. To learn more about the concept of forgiveness, read this article published by Michigan State University titled Forgiveness: What is it and how do I do it?

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Kelso Harper
  • Director Vitalii Nebelskyi
  • Narrator Jack Cutmore-Scott
  • Storyboard Artist Solomia Zarazivska, Maxym Hnatyk
  • Animator Eugene Shargorodskiy, Ivan Masalitin, Anna Khomenko
  • Art Director Vitalii Nebelskyi
  • Composer Salil Bhayani, cAMP Studio
  • Sound Designer Chengqing Zhu, cAMP Studio
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Producer Anna Bechtol
  • Associate Producer Abdallah Ewis
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Fact-Checker Charles Wallace
  • Expert Consultant Karina Schumann

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