Seven Rules on How to Apologize
A letter to my children, in hopes that they will learn from my words.
You will have to apologize more times in your life than you can even imagine. Yes, when you are young you will think that you could never possibly be wrong. But you will be. Oh how you will be. You will do things for which you are ashamed. You will hurt the people who are closest to you. You will say words you wish you could take back. Inevitably, there will be friendships that will be irreparably fractured. It happens to all of us. It is called being human.
It seems like apologizing would be something easy to do, but it isn’t. So just how do you apologize? I have compiled some rules for you to follow.
Resist the urge to use the word “but.” You will want to. You will want to explain your actions or your words, whatever it is that has caused the other person pain; don’t do it. The word “but” negates all the words that came before it.
Apologize for your actions. Take responsibility for whatever it is you have done. Even if you think that the other person has some fault in the argument, apologize for your part.
The most important thing is to be sincere. Look the person in the eye. Don’t give a half-hearted apology and say something like “I am sorry you got upset when I…” A half-assed apology is worse than none at all. Because not only are you not offering up an apology for what you did wrong, you are telling the other person that they had no right to get upset.
Do not text your apology. Do not email it. For the love of all things holy, do not post it on Facebook. Give the person your apology in person, or if that is not possible, over the phone.
Offer reparations. Make it right if possible. Show the person in a meaningful way that you are truly sorry.
Let it go. All you can do is apologize. You can’t make a person forgive you. There will be times when an apology just isn’t enough and the relationship will end. It is in those moments that you should learn from your mistakes and not repeat them.
You should realize that as much as you will have to apologize, others will have to apologize to you. Be gracious. Offer forgiveness. Sometimes you will find yourself overly invested in hanging onto your anger and enumerating the ways that you have been wronged. That is precisely the time you should do some self-examination.
Your Mother, who wishes she didn’t have to learn these rules the hard wayPublished April 23, 2011. Last updated June 26, 2018.