There are few things as engaging and disarming as a swift, heartfelt apology.
Which brings me to my four qualities of a real apology (as opposed to a forced apology, a legal apology, a sneering apology, or an anti-apology).
Four Qualities of a Real Apology
1) Sincere - using words like "I", "mistake" and "sorry".
2) Quick - without the lengthy delay that often sets in when a committee or a lawyer is involved
3) Clear - simple language, well organized, free of jargon and information overkill
4) Unequivocal - avoids blaming someone else for what happened
Interestingly, these qualities are pretty close to what the courts have determined constitutes a real apology that mitigates the damage caused by the initial offense, whatever it was.
I could add a fifth quality - concise - to the list, but that may be asking too much of some people. ;-)
Thanks to Silicon Beat for the link.