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3 Minutes Read

How to apologize

I hear the word “sorry” pretty often, across a range of different situations — from a stranger accidentally bumping into me in the grocery store, to that celebrity who’s always in the news trying to wiggle out of the latest scandal.

Perhaps because the word sorry has become so cheap, it seems that few people know how to genuinely apologize in the contexts where it matters most. If you’re contemplating how to give a meaningful apology to someone in your life, follow these steps to help you both get the most out of the experience.

Acknowledge you were wrong

The first step of apologizing is acknowledging wrongdoing. Own up to your behavior without making excuses or shifting the blame onto someone else. It can be helpful to explain what you were thinking at the time or how you came to make certain decisions, but be aware that the more you explain, the more likely it is you’ll start sounding like you’re justifying your actions. Show that you understand why you were wrong by explaining it in your own words. 

Here’s an example of starting out an apology by acknowledging you were wrong:

“I’m really sorry for standing you and your parents up for the dinner we planned. I’m realizing I haven’t been prioritizing the right things since I got my fancy promotion. I don’t like how I’ve been acting and how that is impacting the people I care about. I made a commitment when I agreed to spend some time getting to know your parents while they were in town, and I should have treated that more seriously.”

Express remorse

Show regret for how you impacted the other person through your actions. This step is really important, because it goes deeper than the objective facts of what happened and touches how the person subjectively feels in the wake of the experience. Expressing empathy can also help with reconnecting and healing the rift in your relationship.

Expressing remorse as part of an apology can look something like this:

“I really overreacted when you came out, and that’s the last reaction a daughter wants to experience coming from her mother. I wish so badly that I hadn’t let my emotions and my assumptions overtake me in that moment — I know I hurt you and disappointed you with the things I said. I hate that my negativity and lack of support has only made your coming out journey harder.”

Commit to making things right

How are things going to change moving forward? Can you fix what went wrong? Are you going to behave differently in the future? Address these questions in your apology, to start the road toward rebuilding trust.

Try something like the example below:

“I realize I have to stop ghosting you if we’re going to maintain our friendship. I’d love to take you out for brunch next weekend to make up for being so out of touch lately. I’m going to work on showing up more consistently in our friendship, and being more communicative with what’s going on at the times that I can’t.”

Doing the work

Mustering up an apology is not always easy, let alone following through on the commitment to change. Consider trying therapy to get some extra support — I’m ready to help guide you through reflecting on what went wrong, communicating effectively, and showing up differently in the future. Click the button below to set up a free phone consultation. I'd love to hear more about what you’ve been going through and discuss how working together could make a difference.


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