Relationship Advice

How to Apologize

A Cheap Apology…

Has something like this ever happened to you during childhood…you did something “bad”, let’s say you made fun of a classmate. The teacher called home and told your parents, then when you got home that day they told you that you had to apologize to the other child. But…you were not sorry, you did not feel you did anything wrong, so you refused to apologize. Yet, in the end, your parents made you call that kid and lie to him – telling him you were sorry.

This is what I call a cheap apology, it’s worth nothing, yet there are still plenty of them being passed around. Cheap apologies are: 1) dishonest 2) insincere 3) given without a feeling of remorse or responsibility. Most people can see right through a cheap apology, and as a result there is no forgiveness because the apology was not sincere.

Why is it important to apologize…

“You must first apologize before you can have a chance at being forgiven”. The right apology will release resentment and cause all people involved to feel better. Apologizing is so important because without one, the person hurt will not forget it and that resentment will stay with the relationship.

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The big mistake we make when apologizing…

The best advice I have ever received about apologies was from my mother when I was 17. I was feeling guilty about something I had said to a friend and I was telling her about it. She told me that this person probably needed to hear me say I was sorry. She stressed the importance of not making excuses for myself when I apologized. They would want me to accept the responsibilty for my actions, tell them I was sorry, why I was sorry, and that’s all. If I had of rambled on with excuses, such as “I was having a bad day” or “I was stressed out”, it would have been cheap. She was right, the BIG mistake people make when apologizing is trying to avoid their share of the blame, they either blame someone else or make excuses for themselves.

Validate the other person’s feelings…

When apologizing it is important to validate the other person’s feelings. If they are upset by something you did or said, do not tell them THEY are overreacting. We all have a right to our feelings and by apologizing properly you are validating theirs. Say something like: “I’m sorry for yelling at you, I was out of line and I don’t blame you for being upset about it”.

Tell them what you did wrong…

You should also say what you are sorry for, while validating their feelings: “I’m sorry for not calling when I knew I was going to be late, that was very inconsiderate of me” or “I’m sorry for getting mad at you, I was being overreactive” or “I’m sorry for the things I said earlier, it was very mean of me”. When I hear “I’m sorry” with no explanation of why, I think: ‘And what are you sorry for? Do you even know? Or do you think those two words fix everything?’. By clearly admitting your mistake and not making excuses for yourself you are telling the other person that you sincerely do feel bad, and that is what they want to hear.

Listen and wait…

After you apologize do not expect everything to be “better” right away. Take time to listen to your partner, and give him or her some time to release their hurt feelings.

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Alanna Brooks

Alanna is a freelance writer from Toronto, Canada. She is a regular contributer to and we love her honest, tell-it-like-it-is style!

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