How Smart Men Apologize to Women

The three rules for damage control for when you're caught in a lie.

The truth hurts, but not as much as being caught in a lie. "When you lie, you're almost always digging a deeper hole for yourself," says Gary Seigel, PhD, author of The Mouth Trap: Strategies, Tips, and Secrets to Keep Your Foot out of Your Mouth. So does that mean you should always come clean? Most of the time, yes. "Very seldom will you resurrect yourself from a lie, theft, or confrontation with a client at work," says Seigel. But if you've already dug your own grave, here are three reputation savers. And if it's your wife you plan to apologize to, hopefully you've put in the work to make your marriage last forever.

Take Full Responsibility

Apologize, responsibility

"If you've missed a deadline, you've missed a deadline. Admit it, acknowledge it, and recognize the problem," says Seigel. Or if your wife asks why you're late, don't say you were at the office if you were having drinks with friends. "A piece of the puzzle might be discovered later on, which can lead to tremendous mistrust." But once that mistrust is created, don't fret: you can always give marriage counseling a shot.

Know Your Audience

Apologize, kid

Just because an apology worked with your wife doesn't mean it will work with your children, boss, or coworkers. "Men don't always think things through ahead of time. It's important in any relationship to find out what is truly irreparable," says Seigel. So get ahead of the issue—at work, at least—and be sure to fireproof your career.

Do It In Person

Apologize, in person

Unless you're fighting with someone overseas, it's never wise to apologize via e-mail. "It's impersonal and cold, and you can't see the person's reaction," says Seigel. "In a live conversation, you can tell if your apology is accepted." And if you're having trouble with IRL conversations, consider cutting back on your smartphone use.

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