How to Craft a Good Apology

photoSome of us are really awful at apologizing. Instead of making a whoopsie better, we end up backing ourselves into the hole we already dug. Sometimes, it’s an accident. We might really be attempting at a sincere apology, but we don’t understand what an apology really looks like.

Below are a handful of ways you can give a heartfelt apology that will hopefully get you out of trouble without making you look (any more) like a jerk.

– Always start with “I’m sorry.” Trying to apologize without actually using the words “I’m sorry” is not very effective, and it usually feels insincere.

– Admit that you realize you’ve made an error. Don’t do that backhanded apology thing where you say things like “I’m sorry you feel like I should have asked before I spent our savings on that Mini Cooper.” You’re not really saying sorry, you’re apologizing for someone else’s feelings while also sort of insinuating they’re crazy.

Try it again: “I’m sorry I neglected to think about you before I spent our savings on that Mini Cooper.” Ah, much better.

– Try not to use the word “but.” It’s okay to explain your thought process, but don’t justify it by using the word “but.” Explaining your actions is good for communicating where you’re at; justifying them makes the apology seem false.

Example: “I’m sorry I didn’t call you, but I got really wrapped up in American Horror story and then fell asleep.” Even if it’s true, the word “but” makes it seem insincere. A good apology should contain no excuses.

“I’m sorry I didn’t call you. I got really wrapped up in American Horror Story and fell asleep” just seems more genuine. You recognize you forgot to do something (even a dumb, seemingly menial something that apparently meant a great deal to someone else), you address it, you apologize. You don’t justify.

– Don’t self loathe. There is nothing worse than a self-loathing apology! Not only are you f*cking up, but you’re then trying to spin the situation by asking for pity. “I’m sorry I forgot our anniversary, okay? I’m sorry I am just SUCH a f*ck up, and basically the worst partner ever, okay? I’m sorry.” No, you’re not sorry. You’re explaining away your self-involvement with more self-involvement.

– Always end by reiterating the fact that you are sorry. Come full circle. Apologize for your actions. Explain your thought process if you think it will help the person you wronged understand where you’re at. Don’t justify or whine about how awful you are (they probably already know it. That’s why you’re apologizing). And then, just to make sure your sincerity is fully expressed, apologize again.

This post was originally published on 


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One Response to How to Craft a Good Apology

  1. Linda Doyle says:

    Great article (about a good apology). I’ve been married 30 years and we dated for 4 years before getting married. My husband is 4 years older which means nothing now but it was when we met. I was still in college and my prior relationships had all occurred before I met him when I was 20 so they were fairly immature. HE, however, had been in a semi-serious one that started after he graduated from college and while it ended up not working, he did learn one thing. How to apologize. Or just TO apologize-not so much as to how. And I learned from him because I had never really apologized to any guy I had gone out with (remember, I was only 20 when I met my husband). I don’t know why some marriages work and some don’t but for some reason, several younger women have asked me over the years what the “secret” to a good marriage is. Apparently they think we have one and I guess we do – we’re still together! But we have had our ups and downs, just like most people do. But I have to give these women SOME advice so I ask them, “When you guys fight, do you both apologize?” and they look at me as if I’m crazy. They usually “blame” the guy and claim, “HE never apologizes so why should I?” And I understand because that’s how I thought at 20 but it’s really not that hard. It’s not hard to say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.”
    No more is needed and, as you pointed out, NEVER use the word “but” because a “qualified” apology is not an apology at all. I don’t know if this is the answer to a good marriage. Maybe there are many things but if you or he cannot recognize that in an argument, a fight, a spat with him or with anyone in this world, that it’s impossible for you to always be “right,” and you have a need to be right all the time, the relationship with him or the world is going to be more difficult. So if you CAN say (and mean) those 5 words-“I’m sorry. I was wrong” and absolutely expect that he is capable of doing the same, the relationship/marriage may NOT last (but there’s a better chance it will).

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