Communication Series by SuperCamp: #2 – Four-Part Apology

Communication is the key to positive, meaningful relationships in all areas of our lives—home, school, college, and career. Wherever we are in life, the ability to relate to others and communicate clearly gives us an advantage. In our SuperCamp programs we teach students some powerful tools for achieving clear, constructive communication and maintaining positive relationships.

This series includes the following communication topics:

  • #1 – Open the Front Door: Communicate negative feelings with a positive approach
  • #2 – Four-Part Apology: Quickly and authentically acknowledge and apologize for mistakes
  • #3 – Three Conversation Don’ts: Avoid communication killers like reassurance, advice, and identification
  • #4 – Active Listening: Pay attention to the words and the non-verbal communication in a conversation
  • #5 – Visible communication: Make your intent visible, make your purpose clear

The twin sister of Open the Front Door (#1 in our Communication Series) is the Four-Part Apology, another very effective communication tool that we use at Quantum Learning Network and teach in our summer camps and school programs.

We all make mistakes in our relationships that can be very damaging if they’re not cleaned up. Sometimes we get mad or something happens and we end up speaking or acting in a hurtful way toward someone we care about. Other times we don’t realize how we can further hurt someone with a meaningless, empty “apology.”

Even though we care about people in our lives, we sometimes forget to show it. Imagine that your friend had a big event coming up . . . maybe a performance, a game, or a job interview. You promised you’d be there to support them, then the event came and went and you weren’t there. When they ask you about it, you say something like Oops, I forgot—sorry, and think that’s enough. If you were the person who had the important game, and your friend said they’d be there and never showed, how would that “apology” make you feel? How often do we hear the word sorry? We hear it so much that it almost stops having any meaning. When we’ve done something (or not done something we promised) or said something (or not said something we should have said), it takes more than just a simple sorry to mend our relationship.

It’s never too late to apologize, and as long as you know how, it’s not too hard to do it right. The Four-Part Apology is an effective tool to fix those issues with a meaningful expression of regret, and help you maintain strong relationships.

Apologize with These Four Steps and Repair Your Relationship

Whenever you’ve made a mistake significant enough to impact someone in a negative way, apologize in a positive way. As with OTFD (Open The Front Door to positive communication), we can use an acronym to help us remember the four parts of our apology: AAMR (All About Mending Relationships) = acknowledge, apologize, make it right, recommit. Use these four steps whenever you’ve offended or hurt someone.

Here’s an example of using AAMR with that friend who’s upset that you never showed up at their game to support them as you promised.

A – Acknowledge: Sometimes the most important part is admitting that you did something wrong. It’s easy to make excuses—it’s much more powerful to take responsibility. Make sure to use “I” statements so the person knows you’re taking responsibility.

Example: I acknowledge that I never showed up at your game to support you and that I upset you by seeming not to care.

A – Apologize: Apologize for whatever you might have done or said that hurt them. Note that the word apologize usually sounds more sincere than sorry. It has more depth and communicates genuine remorse.

Example: I apologize for hurting you by promising I’d be there, then not showing up. I apologize for making you feel that I don’t care.

M – Make it Right: Ask the person what you can do to make it right. The most important part of this step is the question mark. The other person is the one who was hurt, so they get to decide what will fix it. If they don’t have anything specific in mind, offer something to make up for how you let them down.

Example: What can I do to make it right? If they don’t have a suggestion, you can add Why don’t I come to your game next Saturday and then we can go out for pizza?

R – Recommit: Show that you’re committed to not letting anything like this happen again.

Example: From now on, I’ll follow through on my word and be there to support you when you need it.

The power of the Four-Part Apology lies in its ability to demonstrate that you’re taking responsibility for your actions. When the people in your life realize that you’re willing and able to do that, they’ll be more open and trusting with you—and your relationships will thrive.

Clearing the air with the Four-Part Apology relieves tensions and feels good for both people. It releases positive energy and creates synergy, especially if it’s tension that’s been festering for a while. This is a simple system that can help us clearly communicate something that we found difficult to say in the past. In the light of clear, positive communication, even long-standing miscommunications can be resolved. Relationships that have been negative for years can get back on track when with an apology that reflects this level of responsibility and commitment.

Take a moment now to think about your relationships. Are there any relationships in your life that could benefit from you using OTFD or AAMR? Could you resolve a difficult relationship by opening the front door and sharing observations, thoughts, feelings, and desires about something that transpired between you and the other person that hurt you or made you feel uncomfortable? Or maybe there’s a relationship in your life that would benefit from you offering a sincere apology? If either of these possibilities is relevant for you, take some time to think about the steps and how each applies to the situation you’re addressing. Maybe even write down what you want to say in each step. Remember how important it is—in any communication situation—to think before you speak.

There’s always a way to mend damaged relationships, whether you’re the one who was hurt or you’re the one who hurt another. If your thoughts lead you to a relationship that needs fixing, why not fix it now—open the front door and make it right!

The next article in our Communication Series is about still another valuable communication tool. In Three Conversation Don’ts we’ll look at don’t deny, don’t resolve, and don’t me-too, and the reasons we should avoid these conversation killers.


SuperCampAbout the Contributor: Since 1982, SUPERCAMP, Monthly Mentor, has inspired and empowered thousands of teens to feel confident and motivated, and to excel in school and beyond. Held on prestigious U.S. college campuses (Stanford, CSU Long Beach, and Villanova), SuperCamp offers seven- and ten-day residential programs for students in middle school, high school, and first-year college. Living on a college campus is a great experience for pre-teens and teens and most of our grads go directly to a four-year college after high school. As teens from around the world gather at SuperCamp, they are inspired to believe in themselves and their ability to achieve, and they acquire learning and life skills that empower them to thrive in all areas of their life. Read More…

(See what some recent grads have to say about SuperCamp at www.supercamp.com/student-testimonials.)