A Manual for Apologizing: How to Apologize?

Many times in life, we find ourselves apologizing to others. Sometimes because we had no choice or maybe it was a formality to do so and sometimes it was because we hurt someone by our actions. Many people I talk to think apologizing is a very hard task. While apologizing we are genuinely putting ourselves out and vulnerable. It becomes difficult to apologize when they are a lot of overwhelming emotions involved and might be more difficult for a person who is the head and has a lot of pride. Never in my life, I have seen my father apologizing when he did mistakes. After a fight, he was always the one to initiate the conversation, he talks to us normally like nothing ever happened. Although it is good, people we love who are hurt by our actions expect an apology. To be honest, all they expect is an apology. Why? Because when people apologize for the things they did, it makes the person feel their feelings were acknowledged. A sincere apology not only creates a stronger bond between people, but it also helps the person not to repeat the mistake. Having said that, do you know many do not know how to apologize? They make many mistakes while apologizing that can show they might be insincere. You might be one of them too because we were never taught how to apologize. So, here are the to-do and not-to-do things while sincerely apologizing.

Source: Google

Things not to do/ Things to avoid

  • No, But Please!

This is a common mistake many do. All my life I have seen many apologizing and 99% of them used “but” while apologizing. A ‘’but” invalidates the apology. It doesn’t make the person receiving feel sincere. “I am sorry but I had no choice”, “I am sorry but I was busy”, “I am sorry but I had an emergency”. All these invalidates how the person felt. If you feel you are not wrong then don’t apologize but if you know that you did a mistake, then you shouldn’t add but. “A mistake is a mistake no matter what reason you had for doing it.”

  • If and Vagueness?!

Never use “if” while apologizing. “I am sorry if I hurt you”. This suggests that the situation might not have happened and that doesn’t make sense if you already knew they are hurt. Choosing what words we use while apologizing is important because we do not want to sound inconsiderate. Using vague words only makes an apology feels like a formality. Opening up your emotions can be hard but it only helps the other person understand you more.

  • Too many justifications!

This is similar to the first one. I have seen many giving too many justifications while apologizing. I understand if one does it because he/she wants to express hurting the other person wasn’t their intention, but giving too many justifications will only make an apology insincere. If you want to explain why you did something either explain the whole situation and make a sincere apology or make a sincere apology and after the person has calmed down, explain what happened. Do not do them both simultaneously. Doing so only ends up people in frustration.

For instance, imagine your friend is angry at you because you did not make time when they needed to talk to you. You might have so much going on in your life to not make time for them but apologizing for it, only makes you considerate. So, how to do it? You can either say, “Hey! I was busy all day with all the meetings and work. A lot is going on here. I should have told you this earlier. I am sorry I couldn’t make time for you. Next time, I will make sure this doesn’t happen and I will let you know beforehand if I couldn’t make time for you.” Or you can say apologize first, ask them what they wanted, and then after they expressed and calmed down, you can explain why didn’t you make time before and can ensure that it will not happen again.

Now you might be wondering are all situations this easy. Of course not. There could be much more complicated situations especially in relationships where we might not understand why a person was hurt no matter how many times we think. So, what to do in those kinds of situations, and how to apologize when we don’t understand what we have to apologize for?

Things to keep in mind while apologizing:

  1. Always Listen mean Really Listen!

Confused by the heading? Don’t be. It is very simple. Really listen to what the other person is saying. Why am I stressing about this? Because many times we think we are listening but in reality, we are not. We might have already developed a prenotion about what could the reason for a person getting hurt and we think everything in such a way that confirms that notion. This is one of the major reasons why fights in relationships only get intense. Many couples don’t really listen to each other. I know a couple who always fought. Every time his girlfriend fought, he thought it was because he couldn’t make time for her as he was busy. Despite her saying that number of times that his busy life wasn’t a problem, the man never understood it because he never listened. So, what happened? He felt pressured for not able to manage his time and she felt, he never understood her. Eventually, they broke up because things weren’t working out but maybe if they both listened and understood each other, they would have ended up having a great family together.

  • Empathize

Now, that you have understood how to listen and why it is important to listen, after doing so, empathize with the person and take accountability for what you did. This is where you make a sincere apology by opening up your true feelings. Be considerate with the person. Things you don’t feel important or things that aren’t a big deal to you might be a great deal for others. Hence, never invalidate. No matter how petty you think that is, try to understand why it is big for the other person. “After all, you love them, and what is more important than understanding what they feel and think?” If you empathize and understand them, you don’t have to repeatedly apologize to calm them down. Once they feel they were understood, they will feel good and try to understand your situation in return and the whole conversation might help you both to come to a mutual understanding and might solve the problem. Do not believe me? Try it for yourself.

  • Take Responsibility

One should understand that apologizing is not going to mean anything if one is going to repeat the mistake. “Once you claim that you are not gonna repeat the mistake, stick to it.” As said before, if you feel you haven’t done anything wrong, say it openly. It might hurt the person but it is better than the trust being broken slowly. As you repeat the mistake, again and again, the trust is going to break inch by inch and that’s gonna hurt a million times more. It can develop a fear in the other person and they might end up not trusting anyone in the future. Hence, never pretend to give a sincere apology and then repeat the mistake. Taking responsibility might not be an easy task. A relationship always requires constant effort for things to work but that doesn’t mean you have to live up to other person’s expectations. “Communicate what you feel, what you want, listen to what the other person feels and what they want, make a mutual decision, and make an effort to stick to it, and there you go, a beautiful and healthy relationship you might always want!”


Sravani Mangalampalli.

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