How to apologize properly and sincerely ask for forgiveness
By Charley Mendoza Aug 14, 2020
Russian translation by Yuri Yuriev (you can also view the original English article)
There are times in relationships, whether they are good intentions or bad intentions, when people are hurt or upset.
Perhaps you chose the wrong words or didn’t spare your partner’s feelings, or in some cases your actions may have been misunderstood.
You will feel relieved by talking to the person you hurt. (Image source: Envato Elements)
Anyway, you are going to apologize to someone for something. Since it can sometimes be difficult not to hurt your coworkers, friends and family in the heat of an argument, you need to learn how to apologize and deal with these awkward situations.
Knowing how to apologize properly and sincerely is important if you want to build lasting relationships both on and off the job.
What does it mean to apologize and what does it lead to?
Do you remember being told “I’m sorry” but you didn’t want to forgive because it wasn’t sincere? If so, you know that you have to know how to apologize.
A good apology has two characteristics:
- Seeing that the person is ashamed of his or her words or actions.
- Realizing that his or her actions, intentional or not, are harmful to the person to whom he or she is apologizing.
It is not enough to simply say “I’m sorry” and leave it at that. You must show remorse and an understanding that your actions are hurting someone else. Only under these conditions can you begin to repair your relationship.
Admitting you were wrong helps the person you wronged get rid of the unfair accusation. For your part, accepting responsibility reinforces your reputation for honesty and integrity, and gives you more confidence for the future. You will feel relieved to talk to the person you offended.
A list of business and personal situations that require an apology
A list of business and personal situations that require a good apology:
1. Work and business
- being technically inaccurate or late in completing a task
- being late for a meeting
- Missed email or phone calls
- disagreements about price and scope of work
- misunderstandings about project implementation
- Failure to live up to your promises or representations
- Your unexpected costs
- Unforeseen delays, such as waiting for approval from the department or the supplier
2. Family, friends and personal relationships
- Forgetfulness about gifts
- Being late to a party
- Ignoring messages from a friend or family member
- Material disagreements such as disagreement about spending on vacations, gifts, or groceries
- Inappropriate comments
What happens if you don’t apologize on time
Not acknowledging or half-acknowledging your guilt will damage your relationships with friends, family and co-workers. It will alienate you from close friends with whom you have communicated regularly. It can exacerbate work relationships to the point where you can’t communicate with colleagues not only at work, but also on your lunch break.
Moreover, you will lose the opportunity to participate in exciting projects because you will be uncomfortable around someone who is angry at you or you simply won’t be invited because of an argument. Your comrades and colleagues may pull away if a quarrel breaks out and it may affect your job opportunities.
Managers may feel justified in not apologizing for their mistakes, especially in situations where their employees are partially at fault. Being able to apologize is part of an effective leadership strategy. No one wants to work with a boss who won’t admit his or her mistakes. This creates a dangerous environment of irresponsibility, as subordinates will shift their blame to those below them as their boss does.
Learning to apologize
You’ve already learned that insincere apologies can damage your relationship. Now is the time to learn how to apologize the next time such a situation arises.
Below is a five-step apology structure by psychologists Steven Scher and John Darley that was published in the Journal of Psycholinguistic Research.
1. Express remorse for your actions
Start by saying, “I’m sorry,” or “I apologize. and then describe in words how sorry you are about what happened. You must remember and be specific about what you are apologizing for.
2. Empathize with the offended party.
You should show that you know which of your words hurt the other person and express your regret. The more specific you are about accepting the other person’s hurt, the more sincere your apology will be.
Examples of what you might say are:
“I shouldn’t have yelled that there was no way we could agree on what to do about the video project. It was wrong because you probably felt embarrassed to be yelled at in front of the whole team.”
This apology will sound sincere because it specifically states the misconduct (yelling about the video project), the person apologizing understands the feelings of the person offended (embarrassed), and acknowledges the awkwardness of the situation in front of their colleagues.
The following are phrases for a similar case:
- I was wrong because .
- I shouldn’t have done it because .
- (What I did) made you feel (negative emotions), and it was bad .
Read this guide to learn more about empathy:
3. Acknowledging Responsibility
The phrases “I’m sorry, but…” and “I’m sorry if you felt…” will not be sincere because “but” and “if you felt” after an apology sound like excuses for your actions.
You often hear such apologies from politicians, CEOs, and anyone else for whom they write speeches. But their authors are not the only ones who do this; in the heat of an argument, it’s easy to mix apologies with explanations and excuses.
You will have the opportunity to explain your point of view, so don’t lump it in with the apology. You can explain your behavior later, when the person you offended has calmed down and can listen to you.
But what if you are not the source of the anger you caused? For example, what if your supervisor set a deadline for a job, but didn’t provide the necessary materials for it?
Shifting blame can ease your worries, but it can also exacerbate the situation. Instead, it’s better to focus on solving the problem.
“Express your client’s regret, apologize for the misunderstanding and ask questions to help get to the root of the problem, rather than trying to shift blame,” suggests an article on Maryville University’s blog.
So if your client is angry about the time lapse, you should acknowledge their frustration: “Sorry, we had a misunderstanding (their complaint)” . Then turn the conversation to their vision for resolving this situation in the future.
Are you having difficulty in your relationship with your boss? Read these guides:
4. Offer to make amends.
You have expressed remorse, sympathy, and acknowledged your mistake. Many people would consider this sufficient, but there are two important aspects missing here, both of which are designed to improve the mood of the offended party.
How do you improve the hurt party’s mood? First, offer to do something for them.
Promise to do something in return. You could say, “How can I help?” Or just offer to fix the things that upset them.
For example, here’s what you might say after a disagreement with your co-worker,
“I’m sorry I questioned your ability to create a presentation for the XYZ product. Next time, you’ll do it yourself to demonstrate your skills to the entire team.”
Be careful in your compensation offers. Your offer should be commensurate with your lapse and your regrets about it.
5. The promise of change.
An apology makes no sense if you’re going to keep it up. That’s why the promise of change is crucial in your apology.
By promising to make things right, you can say, “From now on, I’m going to (as you plan to change your behavior) so that I don’t (your insult).”
Try to keep that promise, otherwise your next apology will sound fake, no matter how sorry you are.
How to write a letter of apology
If the person you offended doesn’t want to see you, you need to send a letter of apology, or a formal apology.
When writing an apology letter, remember:
- Write briefly. You don’t need to retell the whole story of what went wrong.
- Don’t exaggerate.
- Don’t blame the other person.
- Do it sincerely and professionally.
Formal apology letters come in many forms, but this lesson focuses on three aspects:
- personal apologies
- Apologizing for others
- A general apology
Now let’s look at the texts for each type of apology:
1. personal apology.
As the name implies, it is written on your behalf. It is a written version of the apology order above.
Example of a personal letter from Grammarly
2. apology for others
A case where you apologize on someone else’s behalf, most often your employee. It could be an apology on behalf of your children or family members.
Below is an example of an apology from a supervisor on behalf of a sales representative.
Apology from WriterExpress.com
3. general apologies.
You’ve seen apologies from politicians, corporate executives, and celebrities. But anyone who has offended a group of people can apologize.
Here’s an example in case you need to apologize to customers about a problem at your company:
Example taken from HubSpot
You’ll find other examples of apology letters in the Front article.
3 things to consider when apologizing
Apologizing is hard, no matter what you’re apologizing for or to whom. We hope the tips below make it easier for you.
1. Don’t think an apology is a loss.
Apologizing doesn’t make you worse; it just means that you care more about preserving the relationship. Nor does an apology mean that you are “backing down,” , that’s okay, otherwise why apologize if you’re not wrong?
2. Don’t expect forgiveness right away
Asking for forgiveness does not mean demanding it. By apologizing, you are giving the other person the opportunity to consider their feelings and to respond to your apology in the way they see fit.
If your apology is not accepted, you can either apologize again and emphasize your willingness to rectify the situation, or you can simply accept that you are not wanted for forgiveness. If it’s a serious misunderstanding or mistake, you may have to apologize several times before you can restore trust and your previous relationship.
3. Watch your speech and gestures
Your gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice affect perception. Try to look so that your apology doesn’t sound sarcastic.
Legal Consequences of an Apology
Your attorneys may advise against apologizing if your statement could be construed as an admission of guilt and, as a result, expose the company to litigation.
If you are unsure whether an apology on behalf of your organization is necessary, consider the following questions:
- Is the situation for which you are apologizing a violation of law? Can it be perceived as a legal violation?
- Is the misconduct related to the company’s core products, services and values?
- How will customers, suppliers and employees respond to your statement?
- Is the company prepared to modify its operations to avoid further incidents?
Read the guidance in the Harvard Business Review for more information on the above questions.
An apology can be used as evidence in a lawsuit, so the victim can use it to support their case. How your apology may work against you depends on its language. For example, saying “I’m sorry this happened to you” does not necessarily mean that you or your company is at fault. The statement simply expresses your sympathy for what happened.
The good thing is that an apology alone won’t be enough to turn the case against you, because “the plaintiff will still have to provide evidence to support the details of their case,” ,” says Atty. Joseph Fantini of the law firm Rosen Injury.
“Apologies are not always treated negatively. Many courts and juries welcome them. The fact that you apologized can be used as a mitigating factor and will affect the case. A denial of remorse or an apology can have very serious consequences.
You have to be careful what you say. Focus on the difficulty or discomfort the other party experienced, not on what caused it. Say “I understand…” or “it must be unpleasant.” to avoid any confusion about your admission of guilt.
Remember the 5-Step Apology Template
Remember these steps the next time you have to apologize:
- express remorse
- acknowledge responsibility
- Make amends
- Promise to change
It will be hard to get used to this way of apologizing at first, so keep at it until the habit of asking for forgiveness becomes your second nature.
The 75+ best messages on how to apologize to a girlfriend, boyfriend or friend
There is no such thing as a perfect relationship. Whether we like it or not, sometimes we make mistakes.
The only way to restore connection and trust between you and your loved one is to apologize for bad behavior, cheating ignoring or misunderstanding . You can do this in a text message, e-mail, postcard, note, phone call, or in person.
Here, the best short apology messages to get your significant other to forgive you unconditionally.
How to properly apologize to the person you love
I’m imperfect, but that doesn’t excuse the mistakes I’ve made. I realize that even if I apologize, it won’t change anything. However, I will keep my promise that I will change because I want to be a better person for you.
I never meant to upset you. You are a very important person to me. Losing you would ruin my life. I apologize for making you feel otherwise. I love you.
I always create chaos. It is not your fault. I apologize for making you feel unhappy. I can’t believe I’m hurting you. You are my only hope in life. I promise I will do everything I can to be the best version of myself for you.
I’m sorry that I’ve upset you and hurt you because of my crazy temper. I still can’t believe you chose me. I will try my best to be a better person for you.
You helped me become a better person. Honestly, I’m trying hard to be a better person for you. I’m sorry I hurt you. I humbly ask for your forgiveness.
I know you’re mad at me right now. I hate to see you cry. I should have known right away that I hurt you. Please give us a chance to make things right. I promise to listen and become more understanding so I don’t lose you.
They say there is always a struggle in love. Two people fight over their differences. But rudeness and resentment will never excuse the fact that I hurt you. I never meant to do that.
I realize that I became self-centered and didn’t consider you my happiness. I realize that I can only be truly happy if I make you happy, my love. I apologize.
I believe that love is patient; love is kind and records all wrongs. I humbly kneel and ask forgiveness.
I apologize for my transgressions that have disappointed you. You are the best guy/girl in the world because you never stop being on my side despite my injustice. Please forgive me.
I am sad and ashamed of my actions. I am upset that I hurt my boyfriend/girlfriend. I’m so sorry, I love you so much.
You are the one(s) who taught me that asking for forgiveness is the bravest thing I can do. It upsets me because I hurt the number 1 man/woman’s feelings in my life. That’s you, dear(er). I am so sorry, and I apologize.
I always believed you were a man with a big heart. I want to ask for another chance. I apologize for disappointing you. I am sad and ashamed. I will never do it again.
I hurt your feelings and I feel bad about what I did. I felt like I was losing my highest blessings in life because I hurt you. I am sorry. Please forgive me.
From the day I met you, you have filled me with unconditional love and care. But I have left your heart full of pain and emptiness. Yet, you fill my life with all the beautiful things I see, and I filled you with pain. Baby, I ask for your forgiveness.
I am sorry for my bad attitude and my reaction. I know you were hurt, and I am so sorry.
Every time I hurt you, I get blisters. Every time I made you angry, I belittled myself, every time I complain to you, I feel shallower. Please forgive me, my love.
I know I’ve often been rude. I know I’m being stupid, not realizing that you only want the best for me. I am so sorry, and I will love you forever.
Yesterday was the saddest day for me, all because of our fight. I apologize. I promise I will change and be good to you.
You are my priceless love. I apologize for not listening to you and going the other way. I realize that I am making a huge mistake. I love you.
I’m sorry I said ugly words to you. It upsets me and makes me feel inferior. I apologize.
I am the luckiest person on this planet because I have a boyfriend/girlfriend like you. But I often give you headaches. I promise to be a better person to be proud of. I apologize for my transgressions.
Over the years, you have always been there for me. You’ve always been by my side no matter what. But I have failed you. I’ve hurt you. I’ve upset you. I’m sorry, my love.
I miss the moments when we laughed together, cried together. But I hurt you. Please remember the happy moments we have shared so far. Please forgive me.
I apologize for the mistakes I have caused you. I did not plan to commit such misdeeds intentionally. I promise never to do it again.
I look upon you with great reverence and respect. Because I made a mistake and upset you, I am ashamed now. I hope you can still give me a chance to change and make peace with you.
How to apologize to a guy
I’ve been feeling so lonely these past few days. I miss my husband’s sweetest embrace. I miss the kindest smile. I’m sorry, darling, for my actions that hurt you.
I have hurt you, but that does not mean I have lost my love for you. I, too, am in pain. I am so sorry, my darling.
A beautiful, stunning and loving man would never be angry with me. Please forgive me. I hope we can get back to normal, because I miss you now.
Honey, it was my fault. I apologize. You are a man with a big heart. I love you even in these difficult times. It will never happen again.
Having made our vows, we both acknowledge that we both have small cracks in our lives. These cracks are problems on the freeway of our family life. Can we fix them together?
The mistakes I make suck! I’ve upset you. I’ve lost your trust. But I promise I will replace it with kisses and hugs and love. I’m sorry.
I apologize for my excessive whining and repulsive behavior.
I am willing to do anything. I’m ready to take all the pain I’ve caused you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.
Since we decided to go on a date, we have faced many setbacks, bad times, and problems. However, we never give up and never let it ruin our relationship. Can we not let it happen this time? Please forgive me. I love you.
I am so sorry that I made a mistake that disappointed and upset you. I am also very sorry for what happened. I hope you can forgive me. Please accept me back into your warm embrace.
I apologize for the distrust I have shown you. I realize that I have been unfair to you. May I hold your hand again? I love you.
If I could turn back time, I would start over and not do anything stupid to avoid upsetting you. Please forgive me. I’m sorry.
No explanation can justify my stupidity. You are in pain. I am truly sorry. I want to make up for what I did. Please forgive me. I love you.
You’re my first serious relationship. I never thought it could happen in my life. Now your absence gives my life nothing. I am guilty of losing you. Please forgive me.
It pains me to know that because of such a small mistake, we are suffering so much. What a stupid thing for me to do. Can we let our relationship end like this? Please forgive and accept me.
I feel empty right now. How can I live without you? I am shedding tears because of a stupid mistake. I’m sorry, my love. Please forgive me.
I feel so alone. I miss your warm embrace that comforts me. Please forgive me.
How to apologize to a girl if you have offended
To my most loving girlfriend/wife, I deeply apologize for my bad words. Please forgive me.
Do you know how much I love you? I say it is immeasurable. That time I made a mistake, my heart fluttered and cried because I don’t want to lose you. Please talk to me.
My dear, I am very sorry for the mistakes I made. I agree that I was wrong. Please give me your big heart and forgive me.
I understand now how much I hurt you. I apologize for the fight. My heart weeps with sorrow. Please forgive me, my love.
I apologize, my dear, for my pride. It took me a while to realize that it is destroying us. I promise to do my best to make sure it never happens again.
Feel the sincerity of my apology. I am very sorry for the pain I have caused you. I apologize for the hurtful words that came out of my mouth. I apologize!
I can shake the earth for love. My heart broke when you left. I am sorry and angry at myself for my foolish act. It was my fault. Please forgive me. Please let us be together again.
I feel like an idiot for thinking that everything happened because of my immature thinking. I’m sorry for what happened. I wish I had the opportunity to return to your warm, loving embrace. I love you so much, and I am so sorry.
Every day and every night I am haunted by unpleasant thoughts because of the pain I caused you. I am sorry for making you cry/sad. Please forgive me.
I love you even more because you have shown me how strong you are as a woman, able to forgive me after the mistakes I have made. It helps me to change. Thank you. I apologize for my immaturity.
I am sorry for saying unpleasant words. I apologize for the mistake I made. Please don’t let it divide us.
I am ashamed of what I said to you. A simple apology may not be enough. But I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get you back.
My morning is dull this morning because I miss your smile. I hope my apology will help fix that. I’m sorry.
Please forgive me, I promise to make you better.
No words can justify my actions. I apologize for the terrible thing I did.
I’m in the park and the sunlight reminds me of your beautiful hair. It reminds me of the laughter and smile we had. I am still waiting for you. I will never stop waiting for you. I’m so sorry. I love you so much.
Now that you’re gone, I feel completely empty. I miss the days when you were around. I am sorry and angry at myself for the mistake I made in losing you. Nevertheless, I hope and will wait for your forgiveness.
Best words of apology to tears.
Breaking my closest friend’s heart is the biggest setback of my life. I am so sorry.
The pain I caused you haunts me every day. I miss my most beloved person in this world. Please forgive me.
I was awake and worried for fear of losing you. I thought about all my stupid and immature habits. I am ashamed. I’m sorry, and I hope you can still be my best friend.
I am sorry that I was not so wise, and caused the sad fate of our friendship. I still believe the time will come when you will forgive me.
I wish I could travel through time and not make mistakes. I want to take back the pain I caused. I want to fill our relationship with joy. I’m sorry.
Yesterday was the best time of my life. Thank you for holding me in your arms despite my wrong actions. You really are my best friend.
I’m sorry that at times I take you for granted.
Thank you for giving me another chance to make up for what I did. Once again, I apologize for my actions.
I am so ashamed that I hurt you. I apologize. Can you forgive me?
I miss the smile of the best man in the world. My world is dull and gloomy now. I am so sorry. Please give me your best smile now!
I will wait forever until you forgive me.
Ever since the day I hurt you, my heart has bled. Only your forgiveness can mend my heart. I am so sorry.
If anger is ugly and forgiveness is beautiful, what will you choose?
I know what I did wasn’t cool. I’m sorry.
I realize I’ve become too selfish and never thought about how you feel. I apologize.
You have to blame me for everything that happened. It hurts me because this situation has affected our relationship so much.
We are different. Those differences have made us best friends. I hope you accept my apology and forgive me.