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Ever stumbled for a good way to say you're sorry?

Don't worry, science has your back. Researchers at Ohio State University recently broke an apology down into six basic components and asked over 700 people to rate which ones — and which combinations of them — were most effective.

Want to know what the six elements were?

No list is complete without examples, so let's take the catchiest apology ever — "Apology Song" by The Decemberists — as our test subject. (If you don't know the song, by the way, it's about apologizing to a friend after letting their bike, Madeleine, get stolen. You can listen to it here.)


1. First, an "expression of regret." In other words, say you're sorry.

Alas, poor Madeleine. Photo from iStock.

This is a simple one and maybe not as important as some of the other elements in this list, but it's remarkable how many times people try to apologize without, you know, apologizing.

So how do The Decemberists measure up? Pretty good. They nail this one right at the beginning of the song:

"I'm really sorry, Steven, / But your bicycle's been stolen."

Pretty good! But what's next?

2. An explanation of what went wrong.

I can't help but notice the conspicuous lack of bikes here, Colin. Photo from iStock.

It's a good idea to explain what happened. An explanation isn't an excuse, but it can help the aggrieved person understand the circumstances.

So, Decemberists?

"I meant her no harm / When I left her unlocked / Outside the Orange Street Food Farm. / I was just running in / Didn't think I'd be that long. / I came out, she was gone."

Takes them a little bit to get to it, but it's in there. Doing good so far!

3. An acknowledgment of responsibility: "It's my fault."

Photo from iStock.

OK, this is a biggie. And is actually one of the most important parts of an apology, according to the study. If something is your fault, admit it.

Let's check the lyrics:

"I was watching it for you / 'Til you came back in the fall. / I guess I didn't do such a good job after all."

That last part — "I didn't do such a good job" — that's the key. It was their fault, and they're willing to admit it. So far, they've been hitting all the right notes.

4. A declaration of repentance – "I won't let it happen again."

Like this times a thousand. Photo from iStock.

Showing that you've learned a lesson and are taking steps to make sure it won't happen again is another important point.

Unfortunately, it's one that The Decemberists miss in this song. If they wanted full marks, they should have explained how they were going to invest in some super-duper bike locks or a personal bike guard dog or something equally anti-theft.

In verse, of course.

5. This is another big one: offering to make it right.

I hope Madeleine 2 gets some sweet flame decals. Photo from iStock.

Ouch, another one The Decemberists missed, and it's a biggie — saying how you'll fix the problem.

So what could The Decemberists have done differently? Well, they do say:

"Where has she gone? / Well, I bet she's on the bottom of a Frenchtown pond."

This is the point where they should have sung about breaking out the scuba gear or draining the pond to get to poor Madeleine. (Ponds are apparently completely filled with bicycles anyways, if that canal proves anything.)

Or, you know, getting them a new bike. But scuba diving's more fun.

6. Lastly, a request for forgiveness.

Photo from iStock.

This is actually the least important part of the apology.

"That's the one you can leave out if you have to," said the study's lead author, Roy Lewicki, in a press release.

But it's always good to include it if you have time. And on this, The Decemberists nail it again:

"So I wrote you this song / In the hopes that you'd forgive me / Even though it was wrong / being so careless with a thing so great."

The most effective apologies contained all six elements, according to Lewicki, but admitting fault, offering a fix, and giving an explanation seemed to be the most important combination.

As to why those three were most important, the authors think it's because they most directly address the original violation of trust while the others are more ephemeral.

Remember, though, this isn't a cheat sheet. If you're not genuinely sorry, it means nothing. And even if you hit the high-score best apology of all time, the other person doesn't have to accept it. And that's OK.

So how did our band do? Altogether, The Decemberists get 4 out of 6. They left out two elements, but nailed some of the big ones. So I'd definitely accept that apology.

If you need to apologize and are stumbling for words, remember this:

"I'm sorry, it was my fault. Here's what happened. I won't let it happen again, and here's how I can make this right. Forgive me?"

Hopefully that'll help patch up any bike-related mishaps in your life.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

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