Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Leah Aguirre LCSW
How To Apologize: 7 Ways To Say I'm Sorry
Published Jun 16th, 2021 & updated on Jan 19th, 2022
No one likes to admit they’re wrong, and very rarely do people want to apologize for their actions. Why? Because you don’t like to feel as though you’ve hurt someone! It’s much easier to distance yourself, not take the blame and just attribute the mistake to someone or something else. But the art of apologizing is an important one!
Admitting you’re wrong and fessing up to a mistake can feel like the shittiest thing you’ve everrrr done! No one likes to admit they’re wrong…especially if it means that you’ve unintentionally hurt someone. But regardless of your intentions, sometimes you have to pick up your courage, set aside your pride and say “I’m sorry.”
Good thing that we’re here to help walk you through how to apologize. Because One Republic and Timbaland were wrong when they said that it’s too late to apologize! It’s NEVER too late!
1. Be Genuine
When it comes to an apology, there is nothing better than a genuine one! We can all say that we’re sorry, but saying that you’re sorry and genuinely meaning it are two totallyyy different things. A sincere apology doesn’t include you trying to explain away your mistakes, adding a “but” at the end of it, or trying to justify your actions.
No one wants a half-assed apology! And, the person you’re apologizing to can tell if you don’t mean it. So, be as genuine, sincere and sorry as you can be.
2. Change Your Actions
The best way possible to show that you’re sorry is to change your actions. If you’re eating this magical ice cream that keeps appearing in your freezer, only to find out that it’s your roommate’s special treat for themselves, don’t eat it again!
When you show that you’re changing your actions, it also shows that you don’t want to repeat your mistake and that you respect the other person’s feelings, needs and property. Changing your behaviour is the perfect way to show that you don’t want to hurt them again!
3. Show Remorse
This can be a hard thing to embody when apologizing to someone, so let’s give you an example of how to do this.
Let’s say you accidentally run over someone’s bike and totally trash it. Your natural instinct is to run away from the scene of the crime and pretend that it definitelyyy wasn’t you who just turned this bike into scrap metal. Instead, to show remorse, you can own up to the situation, stick around at the scene and offer to replace/repair the bike.
Doing this shows that you’re serious about being sorry and that you’re regretful of what happened. And honestly, it makes an apology mean that much more!
4. Take Responsibility
Don’t blame anyone else for something that you did. If you’re the accidental bike-basher in the last example, don’t pass the blame onto the sweet older woman walking past you! (We doubt that people would believe that she was the culprit, but it’s best to not do that anyway.)
It’s easy to get caught up thinking that if someone hadn’t done/said something, you wouldn’t have done what you did. But passing on the blame invalidates any apology. It helps your brain and ego separate you from being responsible for what’s gone wrong. And, even though you might feel less guilty passing off the blame to someone else, that nasty little emotion of guilt will catch up to you in the long run. So, it’s better to reinforce your apology with action by owning up to what you’ve done.
5. Make An Effort
Saying sorry is all well and good, but words can only do so much. Just like with changing your actions, it’s important to make an effort when you apologize. Depending on what you’re apologizing for you’ll have to back it up with proof that you want to improve.
This could look like educating yourself about different cultures if you’ve made certain statements or assumptions. It could mean taking your partner out on regular dates when they’ve expressed that they feel forgotten when you don’t go out often. It could also be working to cut down the amount of time that you spend on your phone when you’re around your partner because they’ve expressed that they feel distant from you when all you two do is scroll.
Major action changes can’t happen overnight, and they can’t happen without making the effort!
6. Acknowledge What You Did Wrong
Fess up! Own it! Step up and explain your mistake! (Omg sorry, that sounded soooo harsh. EXPLAIN YOURSELF!) We’re only half-joking though because we really do mean it!
Remember that scene from Elf when Buddy writes his apology note to his family before heading back to the North Pole? “I’m sorry I ruined your lives and crammed 11 cookies into the VCR.” Even though Buddy might be super in his feels in this moment, he’s owning up to disrupting the dynamic of his fam and for also putting baked goods where they definitely shouldn’t go.
When you acknowledge what you did wrong, it shows that you want to repair your relationship with the person you’ve hurt and that you are big enough to admit your mistakes. If we could have it our way, our mistakes would be quietly swept under the rug, never to be seen or heard from again! UGH! If ONLY it could work like that! But if you admit your mistakes, it shows your maturity, your willingness to repair the situation and that you respect the person enough to own up to it.
7. Ask How You Can Help
Sometimes, you don’t know what someone needs after you’ve apologized to them. Everyone is different and has different ways of healing. They might need some time and space to process their emotions around what’s just happened, or hearing sorry might be enough for them. You won’t know what they need unless you ask! You can say “I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings. Is there anything I can do for you?” Or, “is there anything you need right now?”
Asking them what they need also shows consideration for their feelings too! So even though you may have messed up and fessed up, considering what the other person needs in order to heal is an amazing and compassionate thing to do.
When To Save Your Sorrys
It’s important to note that when you’re apologizing for something that it’s not taking the responsibility for someone else’s mistake. If you notice that someone in your life is gaslighting you, putting the blame onto you, or making things seem like they’re your problem — don’t automatically apologize and take the blame! It might feel like the easier option at the time, but as time passes, this pattern will continue to happen, and then you’ll be apologizing for things that aren’t your fault! Don’t automatically take the blame in certain situations. If you find yourself being feeling like the scapegoat for everything then reevaluate the situation, see who is making you feel that way and take steps to remove yourself as their emotional punching bag.
And there you have it! That’s all the advice that we can give about how to say sorry! We genuinely hope that this helps make the apology process a little bit easier! It’s never easy to say that you’re sorry, but it’s important to remember that it’s never too late!