In October 2009 Ben Furman, a psychiatrist from Finland, and the author of numerous books including the brilliant Solution Talk: Hosting Threaputic Conversations, with his colleague Ahola Tapani, and I, developed and made available, a free web site program: www.apologyletter.org.

The simple program combines solution-focused brief therapy and restorative justice to provide a confidential program for considering what to address in forming a meaningful apology.

No one escapes hurting others in life.  Whether done intentionally or unintentionally we all hurt people sometimes.  Knowing how to prepare a meaningful apology is important for healing wounds and repairing relationships.  While not all relationships can or should be restored, knowing how to meaningfully apologize, even if never delivered, can help people heal including the person who did the hurting, and who is apologizing.

My own recent experience making a meaningful apology came from an embarrassing situation.  I had gotten into a ridiculous verbal altercation over a spot in yoga class where I wanted to lay my mat and my friend did too.  He got to the spot first but I got my mat laid down first!  We both wanted the spot badly, and I made some snide comments after I gave the spot up to him.  The next day I felt ashamed and made a heartfelt apology using a restorative approach, which was difficult to do, but would have been a lot more difficult if I had not done it.  The apology was hugely effective.  I believe my friend and I are closer now and have a stronger relationship as a result of the fight over the yoga spot, and my subsequent apology, which he said he was grateful for.

The apology letter website has gained the attention and positive endorsement of several leading restorative justice experts including Howard Zehr and John Braithwaith.  Journalist Marina Cantacuzino, founder and director of The Forgiveness Project, in London, England, says:

“Apologyletter.org is a brilliant idea and an extremely useful devise that can be used by just about anyone in any circumstance. Saying sorry is not easy and the website provides useful prompts and insights as well as the support so often needed in making that first courageous step towards apology. Whether the letter is sent or not, in the act of composing an apology to someone can come great healing.”

While www.apologyletter.org is only a tool to help people use restorative justice and solution-focused approaches in forming meaningful apologies, nothing is a panacea and the program will not work to repair or restore some relationships.  It is important, however, to give people a place to start to consider what is important, which can be healing.

We welcome comments about the website program.  Please feel free to contact either Ben or I with your thoughts.  Our contact information is on the www.aplogyletter.org website.