1. Put yourself in the role of the victim, and say what you would want to hear.

2. Address the victim, admit guilt, and ask for forgiveness.

3. Offer restitution or correction, if possible.

4. Apologize for your actions or words and not because you were misunderstood.


1. Make excuses or rationalize your behavior.

2. Blame others—especially the victim.

3. Dwell on your problems or hardships.

4. Minimize the harm caused by your words or actions.

— Karen A. Cerulo DC’80, professor in the Department of Sociology, School of Arts and Sciences, and Janet M. Ruane GSNB’79,’87, coauthors of “Apologies of the Rich and Famous: Cultural, Cognitive, and Social Explanations of Why We Care and Why We Forgive” (Social Psychology Quarterly, 2014)