How to apologize 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 a chance 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 simply offer to fix what has 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 order of apologies 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 might 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 working until the habit of asking for forgiveness becomes your second nature.
How to ask for forgiveness from a loved one
Hello! In this article we will talk about how to ask for forgiveness correctly, because sometimes just saying “sorry” is not enough. To be forgiven, you must sincerely show that you admit guilt, regret and repent. And how to do this, we will now tell you.
- How to properly ask for forgiveness, so that you will be forgiven afterwards
- Examples of apologies
- How to mend a relationship if you quarrel
- With a friend/girlfriend
- With a loved one
- How to ask for forgiveness from a girl
- How to ask for forgiveness from a guy
- With parents
- Rules: what else is important to consider, besides the words of forgiveness
- Why you may not be taken seriously or sincerely and reject the apology?
- How the phrases you say when you apologize are perceived
How to properly ask for forgiveness, so that you will be forgiven afterwards
An effective apology should look like this:
- You express regret;
- You explain your wrongdoing;
- You acknowledge your responsibility;
- You willingly confess;
- You offer an independent remedy for the situation;
- You ask to be forgiven.
The most important components are admitting responsibility and offering to self-correct the situation.
Professor Roy Lewicki did a study. Here’s what he says:
“Our study has proven that the most important thing in an apology is admitting responsibility. Accept the fact that the blame is entirely on your side and it was you who made the mistake, not someone else.”
The next most effective strategy after accepting your guilt is to offer to fix the situation.
“An apology alone won’t accomplish anything, because by itself it is useless. Therefore, you must express a willingness to fix what is broken. This will reflect that you have accepted responsibility for the damage,” says Roy Lewicki.
It is also very important to express regret and remorse, to explain what you did wrong. The last thing you should do is ask for forgiveness,” warns the professor. You can do without this step.
Research has shown that if you change the point of view of the person you wronged, you will reduce the damage done. In that case, you should do the following:
- The first step is to eliminate the unpleasantness personally.
- Next, explain your act, give a reason for it. But do not make excuses for it!
- You must back up your apology with a real action. Show the person that you have changed.
- Then you must restore the relationship with the person in question.
Examples of apologies
Sometimes a simple “I’m sorry” is enough, but more often than not, it’s not. So prepare in advance all the phrases that you are going to say. You can even write them down on a piece of paper, if you are afraid of forgetting.
Here are a few examples of how you can ask for forgiveness beautifully:
- “(name), forgive me for doing this to you. I miss you madly, you know how dear you are to me. Tomorrow will be a new day, and I don’t want it to be without you. Every second spent with you was and will be unforgettable and unrepeatable. I love you very much. Let’s start all over again, shall we?”
- “Life is made of mistakes, and we learn from them. Here I made a mistake, I made a mistake. But I won’t make excuses, I just want you to understand that I care about you very much and I’m afraid of losing you. That fear is what turned my head, so I made a mistake. Please don’t judge, but understand. I apologize!”
- “I know I’m very guilty, but please understand and forgive me!”
- “Life is too short to waste it on insults! Please forgive me!”
- “I’m sorry, I was wrong!” – While simple and clichéd, this is an important and powerful apology phrase.
You can also apologize beautifully in verse. Of course, it is desirable to write the verse yourself, so that the words in it were really sincere, from the heart. But for those who do not have the talent for this or just inspiration and ideas, we give some examples of how to ask for forgiveness in verse:
“My heart has no rest,
It’s tearing from my chest,
For what I did to you,
Forgive me, sweetheart, forgive me!”
“My heart hurts,
While we’re fighting,
“I can’t stop thinking about you…
♪ Please forgive me ♪
How to mend a relationship if you quarrel
With a friend/girlfriend
There is no such thing as a perfect friendship. Sometimes insults, quarrels, and upsetting things happen anyway. There is no need to put an end to your relationship right away, everything can still be fixed. Most often, friends are insulted not on purpose: without thinking, rude because of a bad mood, got into the wrong business, interrupted, etc.
Keep the relationship only if friendship for you means loyalty, honesty and mutual help. Any other friendship would end sooner or later anyway.
In order to apologize to your friend or girlfriend, you must first know exactly why he or she was offended. Talk to her/him in order to resolve the problem and preserve the friendship. Explain yourself, saying that you didn’t do it out of spite. But this should not be an excuse, you should only state your motive. Apologize for hurting her/his feelings.
If the offended person is your friend, an emotional, romantic and in character, consider presenting her with an apology in verse. Examples of them are given above.
If your apology was not accepted, don’t feel bad. You did the best you could.
With a loved one
How to ask for forgiveness from a girl
Often, men’s mistakes hurt their loved ones. Mistakes can’t be avoided, but you can learn a few simple ways to apologize to your girlfriend or wife so that she will stop being angry and forever forget your slip-up.
- Wait until the girl cools down. Do not immediately get into an open flame. That way you will only make the situation worse. Women take longer to calm down than men. After 24 hours the furious young lady will cool down and realize that your action was not so terrible. That’s when you need to come up with an apology.
- Don’t follow the rule that “the best defense is a good offense. If instead of apologizing, you start blaming the girl for her own sin, you can cause even more trouble than you did in the first place.
- Prepare in advance a beautiful speech. It is desirable that it should contain sweet words and compliments.
- Do not moo, do not slow down, do not stutter. She will get angry. If you forget the words – think of it as you go, say that you are sad and lonely without her.
- Do not forget to buy a large bouquet and a gift when you apologize to your beloved. Approach the choice of the bouquet with soul, you don’t want the girl to think that you are saving on her and not taking the situation seriously.
- If your action is serious, and so easily your girlfriend will not forgive you, try to apologize originally. For example, show up at her workplace with a huge bouquet of flowers to make her colleagues jealous (and at lunch they will talk about how wonderful and romantic you are), or cook her a gourmet dinner personally.
- When asked why you did it, which 90% of women ask, answer “Stupid!” or “Because – stupid!”
How to ask for forgiveness from a guy
Every girl knows how to apologize to your boyfriend or husband – you need to calmly explain about the situation. After all, usually it is just a minor conflict that has arisen on an even ground.
Here are some tips and phrases:
- Express regret. Acknowledge that you are to blame for what happened, not the circumstances or other people.
- Reconcile in person, not by phone, not by text message. Look the man in the eyes when you do so. Your eyes will best show how sorry you are for what you have done. Do not hold back tears.
- If you haven’t been forgiven the first time, give the person time to calm down. Maybe then he will make the first step himself.
- Make amends. Give him a gift of value to him. And as you give it, say, “Honey, this is for you. I’m sorry. I love you very much!”.
- Choose the right time and place. For example, cook for a man his favorite meal, and during dinner, apologize.
- Stop on time. No need to make long excuses, it will start to get annoying.
Remember: parents will always forgive you. They are the dearest and closest people to you. Friends break up, the girl may not forgive, but mom and dad will always be with you. They will forgive you everything – what you said without thinking, the fact that you do not call them because of lack of time.
Apologize for your lack of attention to them. Call them daily, see how they are doing, how they are doing.
The phrase comes to mind: “You can’t choose your parents.
First you need to understand that you are not always right, that you are also wrong. If you notice the faults of parents, and you do not see their own, it will be difficult to ask for forgiveness. Parents are not perfect either. They wish only the best for you, but they don’t know how to do it right.
For example, you did not follow the rule that your parents set. First of all, honestly let them know about it. Do not play down your own guilt, do not make excuses and do not lie, or you will get yourself into more serious trouble. If you tell them everything honestly, you will prove that you are trustworthy, despite your mistakes.
Admit that you made your parents worry. And therefore it is correct to ask mom and dad for forgiveness. Say this: “I’m sorry about what happened. From now on I will behave more decently, I will watch what I say. I’m sorry.” Show that you are willing to be punished accordingly. Mature people should always take responsibility for their actions.
Rules: what else is important to consider, besides the words of forgiveness
- Look the person in the eye.
- Do not hold back emotions. When you feel like crying, cry.
- Call the person by name.
- Be honest and sincere.
- Do not try to ask for forgiveness right away. This may take time.
- Put yourself in the place of the offended person, understand his feelings.
- Accept the reaction of the person after your words.
Why you may not be taken seriously or sincerely and reject the apology?
In order for your apology to be taken seriously, it’s best to choose the right environment for it. If you mumble “So, are we friends again?” while laughing at a party, it’s not likely to be taken seriously. It is better to choose a place where you can explain yourself quietly and show your feelings.
If you don’t admit your guilt, your words will sound insincere. Your opponent will not trust you. They will think you have no intention of apologizing and will only become more angry. An effective apology must address the feelings and needs of the offended person.
You do not understand your mistake, but are trying to somehow fix the relationship. More often than not, it looks like, “I’m sorry, but I don’t know what I did.” The use of words like “but” and “if” cause the addressee to take them lightly.
An apology will not work if you shout out that you are sorry in time of an argument. You will not be heard or taken seriously if you are still fighting. This is because when a person is experiencing negativity, you will not be listened to. Therefore, it is better for you to wait until you both calm down.
You are unlikely to be received sincerely if you apologize via text message. If you meet in person, you are more likely to be forgiven. So you can convey your feelings not only through words, but also through facial expressions and gestures.
Tips psychologist, how to properly ask for forgiveness and reconcile with loved ones.