The art of apologizing…because saying “I’m sorry” is the hardest ever!

Sometimes we make mistakes and we do not know how to apologize to those we have wronged against. Apologizing is a heavy act for some, so heavy that they are never able to offer it, and sometimes some make more mistakes when apologizing because they do not know the correct way to do it. Other times, some offer a false apology just so that the crisis caused by the error can pass smoothly, without the one who made the apology feeling that he was really in the wrong. Therefore, we can consider apologizing as an art, with standards and principles that must be adhered to in order for it to be effective and achieve its goal.

The importance of apologizing the right way

“I have specialized in working with victims, who were abused as children, for nearly 40 years. I have been hearing from victims, time and time again, that the one thing they wished for more than anything else, the one thing they believed could help them heal. Among the abuse they suffered was the perpetrators admitting that they had mistreated them, and apologizing for the harm they had caused.” This is how Beverly Engel, a psychiatrist who has worked in the field of psychiatry for more than 30 years and author of 20 books, some of which dealt with abusive relationships, expressed the importance of apologizing in an article she published on PsychologyToday.

“From time to time I’ve witnessed the healing that can happen when a survivor receives a genuine apology,” Beverly adds. According to Beverly, the reason why a true apology can heal pain and wounds is that the survivor finally feels that he has been acknowledged and what he suffered. (1)

Apologizing is not something we do to be polite, it is actually a way of showing respect and sympathy for the person or people who have been wronged. There are many aspects that make an apology so important. Apologizing shows that we care about the other person’s feelings, and that we are able to take responsibility for our actions. Also, through apologizing, the person who we have hurt may be able to reduce his anger first, and most importantly, verify his feelings and perceptions, as this person may always accuse himself of being at fault, just because the real one did not admit his mistake.

Beverly says during her article that women are often suspicious, in particular, of their perceptions and perceptions when it comes to problems and crises that may occur between them and men. Many questions, such as: Did this really happen? Did he mean to do that? Was it me? Am I overreacting? This type of self-doubt makes recovery from trauma, such as sexual assault, difficult. (1) Here an apology can be seen as letting the victim know that you know and acknowledge that what happened is your fault and not theirs, and this in itself helps them feel better.

Apologizing when you break a norm of social behavior also reaffirms that you know what “the rules” are, and that you should stick to them, allowing others to feel safe with you, just because you’ve shown that you’re acknowledging that harmful behavior isn’t good. This lets people know that you’re the type who’s generally careful not to hurt others.

Apologizing also enables you to discuss “rules” that should be in place in the future in your relationship, especially if new rules need to be established, which often happens when you unintentionally hurt the other person. Creating new relationship rules can help protect you and the other person from getting hurt in the future.

On the other hand, an apology does not only benefit the recipient, but it is also beneficial to the giver. The debilitating effects of the regret we might feel when we hurt someone else can threaten our emotional and psychological health, but by apologizing and taking responsibility for our actions, we help ourselves and rid ourselves of a loss of respect and censure. Self and guilt. When we develop the courage to admit we are wrong and seek to apologize, despite our potential resistance, we develop a deep sense of self-respect.

Even if the apology makes some feel offended, this is also useful, as this feeling can act as a deterrent, and reminds the wrongdoer not to repeat the act. The researchers also found that sincere apologies and acknowledgment of wrongdoing increase the victim’s empathy toward the apologist. Michael McCullough, director of research at the National Institute for Health Care Research in Rockville, Maryland, believes that apologizing encourages forgiveness by inducing empathy. A university student, his result supported the hypothesis that apology leads to sympathy, and empathy leads to forgiveness. (2)

Why may an apology be difficult for some?


We are equipped, perhaps innately, to defend ourselves and protect our preferred image of ourselves. When a mistake occurs, and we all make mistakes, we find that we justify to ourselves what happened, and list the motives and arguments that led us to a particular action, instead of taking responsibility, admitting and apologizing for the mistake (3).

For some people, an apology often feels like an admission that they are bad people. For these people, the act of apologizing goes beyond acknowledgment of wrongdoing and becomes, for them, a statement that something is wrong with their nature or character.

Also, some may think that offering the first apology is an admission of guilt and responsibility for the entire conflict, and they see that the conflict in fact involves mistakes on the part of both parties; So they fear that an apology will allow the other person to take no responsibility for their role in the conflict. Also, some may consider that the apology is a sign of weakness, and that when they apologize they will put themselves in a weak position, while the other party to whom they will apologize will be in the stronger position, so they flee from the apology. (4) This fear of appearing clearly in work environments, we may fear In a competitive work environment, apologizing to a colleague is seen as a sign of weakness, undermines our authority, or even negatively impacts workplace dynamics.

Finally, the ability to apologize may be related to the person’s nature and perception of change. Researchers have found that people who believe that personality is changeable are more likely to apologize for the wrong actions they have done. These people feel that change is possible, so they accept blame for their mistakes and see it as an opportunity to learn and grow. (5)

When should an apology be made?


First of all, you need to know that an apology is not only related to intentional or intentional harm. You should apologize if something you did caused someone else pain, even if it was all unintentional. This is because an apology opens the doors to communication, allowing you to reframe your relationship with the person who was hurt.

Also, if what you did to the other person would upset you if someone did to you, then apologise. If you feel that the other person is behaving in an illogical or incomprehensible way to you, then discussing and listening to them may be the right thing to do, to decide where to apologize afterwards. (6)

Here we should pause for a moment to emphasize that we do not invite you to distribute empty apologies to everyone. In many cases, apologizing can be a bad thing, and lead to very negative results, perhaps even more harmful than the very mistake for which you are apologizing. An insincere apology can cause more harm than not apologizing at all.

For example, apologies that contain empty promises, you know very well that you will not comply with any of them, are bad apologies, because one of the important functions that an apology performs is that it provides an opportunity to rebuild trust, so it is considered the determination not to repeat the abusive behavior, or the pledge to make any possible change , an important part of the apology.

If you promise to change but you don’t, all you have done here is draw the other party’s attention only to the fact that you have made a false apology, in which you only want to move past the situation, and the other party will be able to see clearly that in reality you are not really acknowledging the mistake, that you are refusing Change. Therefore, you should not make promises that you cannot keep, but try to make reasonable promises to avoid hurting the other person in the future, and to be able to fulfill those promises. (7)

There are other types in the list of negative or imaginary apologies, such as: a conditional apology, which comes in the form of “I’m sorry if I’ve wronged you, I’m sorry if I offended you.” Such formulations do not amount to a full apology, because they do not imply an admission that something has gone wrong. Another type of false apology is an apology that places blame on the victim, and it comes in this form: “I’m sorry you felt hurt, I’m sorry you think I did something wrong, I’m sorry you feel so bad, I’m sorry but most other people didn’t They overreact like you did, I’m sorry but you started it.” This kind is not an apology at all, it puts the burden on the victim rather than admitting wrongdoing.

There is also a justifying apology. During this type of apology, the apologizer seeks to say that the hurtful behavior is okay because it is not harmful, or for any other valid reason, in his view. An example of this apology: “I’m sorry, I was just kidding, I’m sorry, I was trying to calm you down and make you see the other side.”

The last type on this bad list is ironically an excessive or exaggerated apology, such as: “I’m so sorry! I feel so bad. Is there anything I can do? I feel bad about this…”. This type of apology is considered bad because it only draws attention to your feelings and how bad you feel, rather than focusing on what you did to the other person.

Excessive apologizing can happen in two different ways. The first is when you bring a lot of seemingly exaggerated feelings into the situation. The second method is when you apologize multiple times for the transgression you’ve done, only to let the other person tell you it’s okay. Either way, your apology is ultimately more focused on you rather than the person offended. (9)

In general, fake apologies seek to avoid responsibility, make excuses, shift blame to the victim, downplay what went wrong, or nullify or confuse feelings of hurt or humiliation. As for the reasons, people issue false or inappropriate apologies for several reasons, including their belief that they did nothing wrong and just want to maintain peace in the relationship, or they feel embarrassed and want to avoid these feelings and they run away from offering a real apology, as well as they may feel ashamed of their actions but feel unable or unwilling to face guilt. (8)

How can you make a good apology?


First of all, in order for you to apologize properly, your apology must be sincere. If not, the other person will not feel that your apology is meaningful or important.

For the person to whom you are apologizing to feel that your apology is sincere, the desire to apologize must come from within. Never apologize because someone else told you it was the right thing to do, or so that you could gain an advantage or move past a negative situation. Apologies that are used to manipulate the other party, or that express behavior imposed by social decency and nothing more, will be spurious and meaningless apologies.

In contrast, a valuable and sincere apology has three main components: remorse, responsibility, and a desire to compensate. First, you have to show remorse for causing the past hurt or harm for which you are apologizing, and then you have to take responsibility for your actions, which means not blaming anyone else and not making excuses to justify the mistake (4).

In the end, comes the role of the third element, which is the sincere desire to compensate. It is true that you cannot take back the past to repair the damage you caused, but your apology must include future compensation, or a promise to take action so that the bad behavior is not repeated. (10)

You can use the following steps to make an effective apology: Identify and explain the perceived error, eg “Yesterday during the meeting, you said…” The next step is to acknowledge that the other person’s feelings are legitimate and have a right to feel them. You can say here: “I understand that this It must be painful.”

The next step is to show that you are responsible and express remorse. For example, “I should have done it differently, I’m sorry I used this method.” Then state your future intent not to repeat the mistake, eg: “From now on, I will try to speak in a more friendly tone/use different words.” (11)

In conclusion, remember that the real apology is offered without conditions and without diminishing the mistake that occurred or the wound and insult felt by the other party. The real apology also begins with listening. If you are seeking to apologize, you first need to hear what happened from the other person’s point of view and how it affected them. The offended party needs to know that the person who hurt him knows the real pain, and that the feelings he feels are reasonable and have a right to feeling it, and that the apology’s sympathy and remorse are quite real. (12)

What should you do if you receive an apology from someone else?


Responding to an apology is critical to the future relationship with the apologizing party. To respond to an apology well, you must first determine whether or not you are truly ready to accept the apology. If you’re willing to accept an apology, show your acceptance and extend your forgiveness through a handshake or any other method that you feel comfortable with.

But if you are not ready to accept the apology, and this is your right, the best course of action in this case is to acknowledge the value of the apology and ask for more time so that you can get over the matter, and clarify when you will be ready to talk about the problem again. (11) If you receive a false apology, You can give the apology a second chance to present the apology correctly, and you can alert him that this is not the form of the apology you were expecting. (12)



  1. Why We Need to Apologize
  2. nterpersonal Forgiving in Close Relationships: II. Theoretical Elaboration and Measurement
  3. The Power of Apologizing
  4. The Power of Apologies
  5. Who Accepts Responsibility for Their Transgressions?
  6. How to Apologize Sincerely and Effectively
  7. Why It’s Important to Apologize in Relationships
  8. The Top 12 Fake Apologies
  9. The 4 Types of Ineffective Apologies
  10. The Power of Apology
  12. How to Recognize—and Respond to—a Fake Apology

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