Making effective apologies is a necessary skill.  Yet few of us know how to do it and most of us fail to teach our children how to make effective apologies.  Many of us think we can simply say, “I’m sorry,” or “Please forgive me.”  But often an apology requires that we do more.  Restorative justice principles provide ideal questions to ask others and ourselves when we need to make a meaningful apology.

Ben Furman is a psychiatrist, author, and trainer from Finland who has developed a wonderful free tool to make effective apologies that applies basic restorative justice principles.

The Sorry program was developed for youth, but adults can benefit by using it too.

Sorry is an “amazing apology-letter writing tool” that is available from the Helsinki Brief Therapy Institute’s website and is accessible in five languages (http://www.kidsskills.org/sorry/index.html).

Sorry asks users a handful of questions.  After responding to the questions a personalized and meaningful apology letter can be printed out in which the user has taken responsibility for causing harm and suggests possible ways to repair it.

Furman and his colleague Tapani Ahola, a fellow therapist from the Helsinki Institute, are also authors of the outstanding book Solution Talk: Hosting Therapeutic Conversations. The book is a collection of inspiring and educational stories about applying solution focused brief therapy and is full of wisdom like this:

Our history is an integral part of ourselves.  As long as we think of the past as the source of our problems, we set up, in a sense, an adversarial relationship within ourselves.  The past, very humanly, responds negatively to criticism and blaming but favorably to respect and stroking.  The past prefers to be seen as a resource, a store of memories, good and bad, and a source of wisdom emanating from life experience.

Restorative justice is a solution focused and public health approach to wrongdoing.  It does not ask who is to blame for an incident and how best should they be punished?  Instead it asks: How can the harm be repaired?

Restorative justice gives us the opportunity to learn from painful events.  It helps us make our lives more meaningful and resilient.

Ben Furman makes a great contribution to finding healthy and healing ways to deal with conflict and wrongdoing.