It is hard to live in a world filled with fallible human beings and not annoy someone once in awhile. When it happens and you become aware of it, an apology may be in order. However, for this to be effective, you need to analyze your motives in making amends and be willing to commit to changing the behavior. An apology without a commitment to change means nothing and may actually increase tension. If the annoyed individual is irritated by something that you cannot change or do not want to change, you can offer empathy and understanding without apologizing.
Regret, Responsibility and Remedy
The UMass Amherst Family Business Center states that an effective apology must contain three components: regret, responsibility and remedy, also called the "3 R" model. An example using this model might look like this: "I am sorry I caused you to feel annoyed when I kept pressuring you to give me an answer. In the future, I will attempt to find answers myself and when I ask you, I will wait for your answer without pressuring you." Note that the apology does not have to be elaborate. In the above example, "I'm sorry" is the regret statement. When addressing the regret portion, you should always state how the person you are apologizing to was affected. In this case: "I caused you to feel annoyed." The responsibility part includes describing and owning your behavior: "I kept pressuring you." The remedy portion involves the commitment to change the behavior, and in the above example, it includes the statement that the person apologizing will attempt to find answers for himself in the future and will not pressure the recipient of the apology.
Apology Language Theory
If you are close to the person you need to apologize to, ThrivingFamily.com suggests using that individual's "apology language" in your amends. In this theory, all individuals primarily speak one of five apology language types when making or receiving amends. The key to this theory is to be intentional in figuring out the person's language by analyzing how he has apologized or responded to apologies in the past. If you use your apology language with someone who has a different type, your most sincere attempts may not ring true to the recipient.
Five Apology Languages
Expressing regret is the first language type. In this case, your apology includes an acknowledgement of your remorse and an awareness of how you have affected the person receiving the apology. An example might be, "I am so sorry for doing that when I know it annoys you and makes you feel uncomfortable." The second language involves accepting responsibility, owning your behavior and accepting fault. For instance, you might say, "I annoyed you with my behavior and it was not OK. I have no excuse." Restitution is involved with the third language. If you are apologizing to someone who uses this language, you should ask how you can make it right and then as much as possible, do what is asked of you. Communicating repentance is the fourth apology language, and it focuses on showing the person you are apologizing to that you are striving to rectify the situation by offering a plan to change the behavior. The fifth type of apology involves requesting forgiveness. In this case, ask for mercy to be forgiven for your irritating behavior.
Tips to Avoid Annoying a Person
You will never be able to completely avoid irritating a person unless you choose to live your life in complete isolation. Since most people don't have that option in today's crowded, interactive world, there are simple steps you can take to reduce your negative impact on others and thus, the need to apologize. PsychologyToday.com offers some practical tips to avoid behaviors that may annoy others. First, don't think of yourself as annoying; those who worry about being bothersome and rejected tend to seek out evidence to confirm their fear and in so doing, actually annoy even more. Another habit to avoid is feeling sorry for yourself. If you are regularly miserable and complaining, you will inevitably annoy people. Conversely, avoid behaving in an entitled manner as this will alienate people quickly. Instead of these negative behaviors, develop the positive traits of being a good listener, keeping your word and maintaining a positive attitude.
Ellen Topness has been a counselor in the mental health field for more than 25 years. She has a Master of Arts in counseling. Throughout her career, Topness has enjoyed writing articles, poems and vignettes for pleasure. She also released a new ebook, "A Natural Disaster: Learning to Survive Myself."