How to Apologise and Mean It?

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 anything.

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 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 hard.”

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:

  1. 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 to listen.

2. Make it clear what you’re apologising for

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. 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

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 change

You can’t do it again, and once they’ve forgiven you, they can’t keep holding a grudge.