You probably have memories of being forced to apologise when
you were a child. You’d say you were sorry, but you wouldn’t really mean it
And just saying the words didn’t work, and it didn’t heal
A real apology needs to come from an intention of restoring
trust and healing wounds. And it’s hard.
We often avoid apologising, partly because we’re worried
about unleashing even more anger, and partly because it feels uncomfortable.
As Reachout.com points out, “Apologising is hard because we
don’t want to feel bad about ourselves. We try to have a positive image of
ourselves, and our need to protect that can make sincerely apologising quite
However, a sincere apology can not only mend cracks in a
relationship, but make it stronger. Here’s a nine step system you can follow:
- Ask for permission to apologise
Etiquette expert and founder of
The Etiquette School of America, Maralee McKee, says your apology affects the
other person, so they need to consent. You can’t just go to someone, open up
raw wounds and then just leave. They might need some time before you’re ready
2. Make it clear what you’re
Be specific. It shows the other
person you understand exactly what you did wrong.
3. Admit you were wrong.
Take responsibility and be
careful not to make excuses.
4. Acknowledge their feelings
This is the make-or-break moment.
Say you’re sorry for hurting them. Note: you’re not sorry “if it hurt you”, or
“if you were offended”. That implies it’s their fault for having feelings.
Reachout.com suggests something
like, “I understand you must have felt really upset, angry and confused.”
5. Say sorry
Actually say you’re sorry. “Don’t
tack a ‘but…’ onto the end of that sentence,” warns Reachout.com
6. Offer a solution
Tell them how you’ll make things
right. If you don’t know how, ask them what they think will help.
7. Tell them it won’t happen again
This is important. As Maralee
McKee says, “Otherwise, what you’ve offered isn’t an apology – it’s an excuse.”
8. Ask for forgiveness
Overtly ask for their
forgiveness. Keep in mind they might not be ready yet.
9. Move forward with an intention of
You can’t do it again, and once
they’ve forgiven you, they can’t keep holding a grudge.