How To Say Sorry


We apologise to express our remorse for something we’ve done wrong. A good apology will communicate three things: regret, responsibility, and a remedy for the error. Apologizing for a fault may feel difficult, but helps repair and improve our relationships with others.

Be prepared to say sorry

Sometimes people experience the same things very differently. Accept responsibility for your actions, focus on what you did, don’t point the finger of blame to the one you’re apologising to. Use “I” statements instead of “You”. Say “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings” rather than “I’m sorry you got so upset”.

Keep your apology sincere. Do not try to excuse or justify your behaviour. Justifications mean that you don’t accept responsibility and that it’s partly the other person’s fault for ‘taking it the wrong way’. The focus is on the apology for hurt caused, rather than the excuse. Sometimes we cause hurt without intending to. If this is true, say so.

Choose your time and place

Apologise as soon as you can. However, if you’re in a highly emotional situation, wait until you’re both calmer. If you need to apologise at work, so this as soon after the mistake as possible to minimise the impact on work. Acknowledge your fault, explain what happened and what will be different in future. Say sorry in person. If that isn’t an option use the phone. Email and text don’t convey your sincerity as well, so leave these as last resorts.

Making Your Apology

Be relaxed and open in your body language. Maintain eye contact, particularly when they’re talking to you.

Acknowledge the hurt created and state your regret, Accept responsibility for the specific hurt. For example “I am very sorry for my behaviour, I feel bad that I’ve caused you pain. It was wrong of me to get angry at you for staying out late”. State what you will do if the situation arises again, for example “I will consider my words before I speak them”.

Let the other person speak. Listen. Stay calm. If the person is still angry, acknowledge this without blame and suggest you talk later as you want them to feel comfortable.

End your apology with gratitude. Express your appreciation for the role that they play in your life. Mark this appreciation with a gift you know they will enjoy. If you’re unsure, consider chocolates or flowers. The acceptance of an apology does not always mean that you’re forgiven, you may need to wait patiently for forgiveness.

The word sorry loses its magic when used too often, especially for the same mistake. The first rule of saying ‘I’m sorry’ is to make amends and ensure it’s not repeated.