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Selected Quotes to Guide a Discussion About Effective Apology

In preparation for a recent talk on apology I gave in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, I went through my book to pull out some statements that might serve as s basis for for a discussion.

sorry chalk

I was pleased that many of the quotes inspired some good discussion.

This was my first such presentation to a group with a majority of people from Asia.  In my next post I will review some of the essential differences in the practice and understanding of apology between Western and Eastern cultures.


Apology is the practice of extending yourself because you value the relationship more than you value the need to be right.

Discussion Statements

  1. No apology is equal to the task set before it.

  2. Apology is humanity’s perfect response to imperfection.

  3. Every effective apology contains within it the answer to the question, “how am I to be held accountable?”

  4. An effective apology focuses more on compassion for the victim than redemption for the offender.

  5. The meaning of apology is in the action, not the words. You can’t talk your way out of a situation you acted your way into.

  6. Apology is the clearest path to confronting reality, because on some level it requires you to accept the victim’s version of events and of yourself.

  7. By acknowledging, naming, and ultimately accepting our mistakes, we embrace our humility and make room for our true selves, imperfect and all too human, just like everyone else.

  8. By apologizing, you align yourself with reality.

  9. Apology sends the clearest signal that you have the strength of character to reconcile yourself with the truth.

sorry stop signs
  1. You can confront the truth about your imperfection and apologize, or you can deny, defend, and stonewall. When you acknowledge the facts—including those that make you look bad—you are on the road to authenticity.

  2. In a world in which nothing stays hidden for long, a practice of apology invites you to act as if you have nothing to hide.

  3. You rarely wrestle with apology and lose. It is the most courageous gesture you can make to yourself.

  4. Progress occurs one apology at a time.

  5. When you apologize, you end your struggle with history.One of the most useful tasks of apology is to bring home to us how keenly, honestly, and painfully past generations pursued aims that now seem to us wrong and disgraceful. It behooves us to consider if future generations will similarly regard the aims we most defend today.  Apology may start as a feeling, a desire to make matters right, but it ends as an effort to move that desire into practice, to actually take on the courageous task of showing compassion to others.

  6. Apology is both transnational, in that it restores what has been broken to what it was before, and transformational n that it creates opportunities that didn’t exist before.

  7. Accepting the apology signals the acknowledgment of a need to move forward, although not necessarily together.

  8. Apology may be scorned, but it retains its inherent value.x

John Kador is the author of Effective Apology: Mending Fences, Building Bridges, and Restoring Trust (Berrett-Koehler, 2009).   More information about the book is at


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