In our personal and professional lives, our reactions and follow-ups to errors and missteps reflect greatly on our character. Previous blog articles  and  have discussed the importance of recognizing our slip-ups, expressing regret and saying ‘Sorry.’
Quite often, when we apologize, we tend to add details to our apologies: we may provide an explanation, or try to account for the circumstances that led to our errors or missteps. In other words, we sometimes tend to qualify our apologies.
Trying to qualifying apologies can dilute the sincerity of our apologies.
Risk: Trying to offer excuses or justify behavior
Take the example of yelling at your spouse when she was late to pick you up at the airport. The next day, you like to apologize for yelling at her. All you need is a simple, “I am sorry I yelled at you yesterday. I shouldn’t have.”
You may attempt to qualify the apology by adding, “You know, I had been traveling for five hours. I was hungry and tired.” Though your reasons for being upset were probably justifiable, your spouse may sense excuses or justification for your yelling. Including reasons with the apology statement may make your spouse question the sincerity of your apology.
Risk: Trying to transfer blame
Suppose that you promised to watch a movie with your spouse on Valentine’s Day. However, your boss asked you to attend a late-evening teleconference with an important international client. You could not go home in good time for the movie. Your spouse is upset. All you need to say is, “I realize I am late for the movie. I regret I did not excuse myself from the meeting early. I am sorry. Shall we watch the movie on Friday evening?”
If you try to qualify the apology by stating, “It was my boss who asked me to attend the meeting. He is unreasonable. I wish he had asked me earlier. We could have planned accordingly.” Clearly, this is an attempt to blame the boss for not being able to say ‘no’ to the late-request from the boss. You spouse sees it as an attempt to draw attention to your helplessness at work and deflect the blame.
The secret to sincere apologies is to keep your apology-statements straightforward and short. Do not attempt to explain or rationalize your behavior–these just dilute the sincerity of your apology.