How to Apologize Sincerely and Effectively

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Relationships can be great buffers against stress, but relationship conflict can also cause significant emotional pain and stress. Knowing how to apologize — and when — can repair the damage in a relationship, but if you don’t know how to sincerely apologize, you could actually make things worse.

A sincere and effective apology is one that conveys genuine empathy, repentance, and remorse as well as a promise to learn from your mistakes. In other words, you need to really believe you did something wrong and feel sorry for the hurt you’ve caused. Here are some simple steps to help you learn how to apologize sincerely and effectively.

Realize the reason to apologize

When you’ve made a mistake or hurt someone, there are plenty of good reasons to apologize. By apologizing, you can:

  • Admit that you were wrong
  • Discuss what is and is not allowed in your relationship
  • Express your remorse and regret
  • 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 can also bring relief, especially if you feel guilty about your actions. An apology doesn’t undo the hurt or make things right, but it shows that you know your actions or words were wrong and that you’ll work harder in the future to prevent it from happening again. again.

Not apologizing when you’re wrong can be damaging to your personal and professional relationships. It can also lead to contemplation, anger, resentment, and hostility that can only develop over time.

Research shows that some of the main reasons people don’t apologize are that they don’t really care about the other person, that apologizing threatens their self-image, or they believe that an apology won’t work. what.

Know when to apologize

Knowing when to apologize is just as important as knowing how to apologize. In general, if you suspect that something you did — intentionally or unintentionally — caused another person to feel uncomfortable, you should apologize and clear the air.

If what you’ve done can upset you if it’s done to you, an apology is needed. If you’re unsure, an apology not only gives you a chance to “own” the mistakes you’ve made, but also re-establishes what you thought was OK. If you feel the other person is unreasonable, a discussion can be arranged. You can decide your position in the apology afterwards.

While a sincere apology can help you mend a relationship, people are often unwilling or unable to take this step. Admitting you were wrong can be difficult and humbling.

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Researchers have found that people who believe personalities can be changed are more likely to apologize for harmful actions. Because they feel that change is possible, they feel that acknowledging their mistakes is an opportunity to learn and grow.


Taking responsibility means acknowledging the mistakes you’ve made that hurt the other person, and that’s one of the most important and neglected components of most apologies, especially sorry in the media.

Saying something vague like, “I’m sorry if you were offended by something I said,” implies that feeling hurt is a random response by the other person. Say, “When I say [the hurtful thing], I do not think. I realize that I have hurt your feelings, and I apologize, “admit that you know what you said hurt someone else and that you are responsible for that.

Don’t make assumptions and don’t try to blame yourself. Make it clear that you regret your actions and that you sincerely apologize.

Express regrets

When learning how to apologize effectively, it’s important to understand the value of expressing regret. Taking responsibility is important, but it’s also helpful when the other person knows that you feel bad for hurting them and wishes you didn’t. That’s it. They’ve been feeling bad, and they want to know that you feel bad when they feel bad.

What to say when you want to apologize

  • “I wish I could get it back.”
  • “I wish I had been more thoughtful.”
  • “I wish I thought of your feelings too.”

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


If you can do anything to correct the situation, do it. It’s important to know how to sincerely apologize, and part of that sincerity is a willingness to act.

What to say when you edit

  • If you break something: “How can I replace it?”
  • If you say something hurtful: “I know my words hurt you. I should never have said that to someone I love and respect. I’ll try to think before I speak. Future.”
  • If you’ve broken trust: “Is there anything I can do right now to help build your trust?”

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

Confirm the boundary

One of the most important parts of an apology and one of the best reasons to apologize is to reassert boundaries. Healthy boundaries are important in any relationship.

When you’re in conflict with someone, there’s usually a line that’s crossed. If a social rule is violated or trust is broken, an apology helps to affirm which type of behavior in the future takes precedence.

Discussing what kind of rules you’ll both follow in the future will rebuild trust, boundaries, and feelings of positivity. It provides a natural separation from conflict and leads to a happier future in the relationship.

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

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

Own your share, not theirs

Remember that when you apologize, you are responsible for your part of the conflict. That doesn’t mean you admit that the entire conflict was your fault. People are often afraid to apologize first, thinking that whoever apologizes first is “more wrong” or “loser” in a conflict.

Apologizing even if it’s only a small part of the conflict is your responsibility, and it’s OK and usually healthy. It allows you to establish what you regret about your own actions but also validate your own boundaries.

It’s important to be fair in your apology, both to the other person and to yourself. Don’t take all the blame if it’s not all your fault.

Sorry for the right reasons

When you’re just apologizing for what you’ve done, it’s easier to move on and resolve the conflict behind your back, regardless of the actions of others. When we apologize, we can more easily maintain integrity and forgive ourselves.

The other person may also be moved to apologize for their actions. While it’s often nice to receive an apology, it’s important to remember that this doesn’t always happen. Trying to get an apology from the other person is a manipulative tactic that sometimes backfires.

Apologize for your peace of mind and others may be inspired to do the same. But be sure not to apologize just because you expect an apology in return.

Ignore the results… to an extent

While apologizing can be a way to maintain integrity and move on from actions we are not proud of, most of us also want to mend relationships and be forgiven. Sometimes this doesn’t happen.

If the apology is sincere and includes the necessary ingredients, your chances of being forgiven are greater, but sometimes the other person is unwilling or unable to forgive and move on. Or they may forgive you but still take precautions. Or they may not realize their own role in the conflict. You can’t control their reaction, and if you’ve done everything you can, let it pass now.

Press Play for advice on making an apology

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and Therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares effective and sincere ways to apologize.

By the hour: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts

Choose your method

A verbal apology is appropriate in most cases, but a written correction can also have its benefits. Many people get annoyed with a face-to-face apology, and while this discomfort isn’t a good reason to apologize in writing, it can be a factor – especially if your discomfort affect self-expression.

Writing your apology down in a letter, email, or even text can give you time to thoughtfully draft your apology, make sure to accept responsibility, express regret, and reassert boundaries.

On the other hand, a written apology may be too formal for some mistakes and not personal enough for others. And if the written apology doesn’t come with a response, you could be left with an unresolved conflict.

How to know if your apology is accepted

In general, you’ll be able to tell if your apology will be accepted if the person takes the following steps:

  • Have heard your apology or admitted to reading your apology
  • Thank you or express appreciation for your apology
  • In response to your apology, say “It’s okay” or “Please never do that again,” or even, “Thanks; but I still need more time to think.”

It’s important to remind yourself that even if someone accepts your apology, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready to forgive you. True forgiveness can take some time, so stay calm and patient.

A very good word

A sincere apology isn’t always easy, but it can be an important part of mending or maintaining important relationships. With empathy, an open heart, and courage, you can take the necessary steps to offer a sincere and honest apology.

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