Sorry: This is how you say you're sorry, like you mean it (2023)

Relationships can be wonderful stress buffers, howeverrelationship conflictsit can also cause significant emotional pain and stress. Knowing how to apologize and when can make things right in a relationship, but not knowing how to apologize genuinely can make things even worse.

A sincere and effective apology is one that expresses genuine empathy, remorse and regret, and a promise to learn from your mistakes. In other words, you must genuinely believe you did something wrong and regret the damage you caused. Here are some simple steps to help you apologize sincerely and effectively.

Recognize reasons for an apology

If you make a mistake or hurt someone, there are many good reasons to apologize. By apologizing you can:

  • admit you were wrong
  • Discuss what is and isn't allowed in your relationship.
  • Express your regret and remorse
  • Learn from your mistakes and find new ways to deal with difficult situations
  • Open a line of communication with the other person.

A sincere apology in particular can also bring reliefif it's your faultabout your actions. An apology, by itself, doesn't erase or repair the pain, but it does show that you know your actions or words were wrong and that you will do more to prevent a recurrence in the future.

Not apologizing when you're wrong can damage your personal and professional relationships. It can also lead to rumination, anger, resentment, and hostility that can build up over time.

Research suggests that some of the top reasons people don't apologize are because they don't really care about the other person, the apology threatens their own image, or they believe an apology won't do any good anyway.

Why Apologies Matter

know when to apologize

Knowing when to apologize is just as important as knowing how to do it. In general, if you suspect that something you did (on purpose or accidentally) caused someone else to get angry at you, it's a good idea to apologize and put things straight.

If what you did would have upset you if it was done to you, an apology is in order. When you're not sure, an apology gives you a chance not only to acknowledge the mistakes you've made, but also to reiterate what you think is right. If you think the other person is being unreasonable, you may need to talk. After that, you can decide how you feel about the apology.

While a sincere apology can go a long way toward repairing a relationship, people are often unwilling or unable to take that step. Admitting you were wrong can be difficult and humiliating.

Researchers have found that people who believe personality is mutable are more likely to apologize for harmful actions.Because they feel change is possible, accepting the blame for their mistakes makes them feel like an opportunity to learn and grow.

take responsibility

Taking responsibility means acknowledging the mistakes you made that hurt the other person, and this is one of the most important and neglected parts of most apologies, especially those made in the media.

Saying something vague like "I'm sorry if what I said offended you" implies that the hurt feelings were an accidental reaction on the part of the other person. When you say, "When I said [the hurtful thing], I wasn't thinking. I realize I hurt your feelings and I'm sorry.” Acknowledge that you know what you said that hurt the other person and that you accept responsibility for it .

Don't make assumptions or try to shift the blame. Make it clear that you regret your actions and that you are genuinely sorry.

express regret

When learning how to apologize effectively, it's important to understand the importance of expressing regret. Taking responsibility is important, but it's also helpful to let the other person know that you feel bad about hurting them and that you wish you hadn't. That is. They already feel bad, and they would like to know that you feel bad because they feel bad.

What should you say when you want to apologize

  • "I wish I could get it back."
  • "I wish I had been more thoughtful."
  • "I wish I had thought about your feelings too."

These are all expressions of regret that add to the sincerity of your apology and let the other person know that you care.


If there's anything you can do to make it right, do it. Knowing how to say a sincere apology is important, and part of being sincere is taking action.

What to say when you make up

  • If something broke: "How can I replace it?"
  • If you said something hurtful: “I know my words hurt you. I should never have spoken like that to someone I love and respect. I will do my best to think before speaking in the future."
  • If you broke the trust: "Is there anything I can do now to rebuild your trust?"

Anything you can do to make things better, do it. If you're not sure what would help, ask the other person.

reaffirm boundaries

One of the most important parts of an apology, and one of the best reasons to apologize, is to reinforce boundaries.healthy limitsYou are important in every relationship.

When you get into conflict with someone, a line is often crossed. When a social rule is violated or trust is broken, an apology helps indicate what type of future behavior is preferred.

Discussing what kind of rules you will both abide by in the future will restore trust,limitsand positive feelings. It offers a natural transition from conflict to a happier future in the relationship.

For example, you and your partner, friend, or family member may discuss things that you will not tolerate, including:

  • disrespect
  • Unfaithful
  • Placed on
  • gas lighting
  • mistrust
  • shouting

Additionally, you can work together to set expectations for how you should treat each other emotionally, physically, and sexually. If you're having trouble agreeing on these boundaries, you and your loved one may benefit from seeing a family therapist or couples counselor.

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Recognize your part, not theirs.

Remember that when you apologize, you accept responsibilityarepart of the conflict. That doesn't mean you admit that the whole conflict was your fault. People are often afraid to apologize first because they think whoever apologizes first is "most wrong" or the "loser" in the conflict.

Offering an apology, even if only a small part of the conflict was your responsibility, is okay and often healthy. It allows you to identify what you regret about your own actions, but also validates your own limitations.

It's important to be fair when apologizing, both to the other person and to yourself. Don't accept all of the blame if it's not all your fault.

Apologize for the right reasons

Apologizing for what you did makes it easier for you to move on and put the conflict behind you, regardless of the other person's actions. When we apologize, we can more easily maintain our integrity and forgive ourselves.

The other person may also feel motivated to apologize for their actions. While an apology is usually nice, it's important to remember that it doesn't always happen. Attempting to conjure an apology from the other person is a manipulative tactic that sometimes backfires.

Apologize for your own reassurance, and the other person might be inspired to do the same. But make sure you don't apologize just because you expect an apology.

Let the results go...up to a point

While apologies can be a way to maintain integrity and let go of actions we're not proud of, most of us also want to repair the relationship and be forgiven. Sometimes that doesn't happen.

If the apology was sincere and contained the necessary ingredients, your chances of forgiveness are higher, but sometimes the other person just isn't ready or can't forgive and move on. or canpardonyou, but watch out. Or they don't recognize their own role in itConflict. You can't control his reaction, and once you've done your best, let it rest for now.

Press play for apology tips

This episode of is hosted by Editor-in-Chief and Therapist Amy Morin, LCSWThe Verywell Mind PodcastShare ways to apologize effectively and sincerely.

Sorry: This is how you say you're sorry, like you mean it (1)

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Choose your method

Verbal apologies are appropriate in most cases, but written redress can also have benefits. Many people are uncomfortable with a personal apology, and while that discomfort alone isn't a good reason for a written apology, it can be a factor, especially if your discomfort is interfering with your ability to express yourself.

Writing your apology in a letter, email, or even a text message can give you the time to carefully craft your apology, take responsibility, express remorse, and reinforce boundaries.

On the other hand, written apologies can be too formal for some mistakes and not personal enough for others. And if no response follows the written apology, you may be left with an unresolved conflict.

Keep your apology simple and direct. If you go overboard, you are exaggerating yourself and not the person you have wronged. This can create resentment and undermine trust.

This is how you will know if your apology has been accepted

In general, you can tell if your apology has been accepted if the person has taken the following steps:

  • I have heard your apology or confirmed that I have read your apology
  • Thanked or shown appreciation for your apology
  • He would respond to her apology with, "Okay," or "Please don't ever do that again," or even "Thanks, but I need more time to think."

It's important to remember that even if someone accepts your apology, it doesn't necessarily mean they're willing to forgive you. True forgiveness can take time, so keep calm and be patient.

A word from Verywell

Sincere apologies aren't always easy, but they can be an important part of repairing or maintaining important relationships. With empathy, an open heart, and a dose of courage, you can take the necessary steps to apologize sincerely and sincerely.

How To Forgive Others

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