19 Comments to
7 Ways to Give An Apology & 4 Ways to Accept One

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  1. Love the article! I thought it was great when I read it on your blog but its good to see it here as well.

    The only thing I would add is that when you make an apology don’t include excuses. I think its normal because we want the other person to know why we let them down but don’t do it. Just apologize.

    All too often people say “sorry” but then they have a million reasons why they screwed up which kinda turns into “it really wasn’t my fault.”

    So for me when I have to swallow my pride and apologize I don’t offer any excuses unless the person who was offended asks. Even then I think its important not to try to shift blame away from yourself but it is reasonable to explain the circumstances. However that’s only if they ask.

    That’s just my two cents.

  2. Steve,

    What you say is brilliant. Whatever follows, “I’m sorry, BUT…” often effectively wipes out any good intention there was in the original apology. Unfortunately I see this a lot in couples therapy. Thanks for pointing out that staying with the discomfort of one simple “I’m sorry” in its purest form is worth a king’s ransom of excuses.

  3. OMG, I LOVE this!!!!! So much wisdom with so much humor…Thank you so much – this will stay with me always.

  4. Whatever you do, DON’T say, “I’m sorry IF I offended you,” or, “I apologize IF you got upset,” or, “I’m sorry to anyone I MAY have offended.” While “I’m sorry” can be the two most disarming words in the English language, they may not be qualified in any way or the apology is totally insincere.

  5. Claudia Luiz, It’s always wonderful and amazing to reach a receptive reader. Thank you!

    Dan, You said it. This is sort of a variation on what Steve said and I agree. Errant politicians in particular seem to think they can get away with the qualified apology. Thank you for setting us straight.

  6. My mother’s motto was “You should have been sorry before you did it”. She wasn’t very forgiving, but then she came from the Victorian School of thought!
    How times change!

  7. pls send me some notes,suggestion

  8. Stephanie, My siblings and I often remind ourselves that our parents did the best they could, which was probably better than their parents did. Yes, times change, thank God!

    Kalu, If you could be more specific, I will try to help.

  9. So, accepting an apology is not the same as forgiveness, right? I mean, I know they are not the same, but there is a little of forgiveness in accepting an apology?

    For myself, I am a very forgiving person, but it is not always something I have a choice about.
    Actually, as long I have a choice, I do generally forgive.

    But that does in no way mean I can resume, or continue the friendship.

    There comes a point, when I have put up with just so much, and then here comes the last straw. (and the ‘last straw’, unlike everything else before that, is different in that it is on a soul level, the injury) I can no longer do it, even if I wanted to.

    My feelings towards the person have changed, and in my experience, these feelings ultimately don’t rest with negative, or angry feelings, but leave me with absolutely ‘no feelings’ at all towards that other person.

  10. PS: When this has happened, I want to add, there never was, or came, an apology though.

    What I am thinking right now is, that maybe if there had been an apology where I felt the other really apologized for what they did, or understood my level of hurt, then that would have made a difference. not because there would have been an apology vs. none, but because the apology is lacking in the first place because the other has no clue how they affected me, and no amount of explaining will do.

    It is this lack of depth , or empathy, that turned out to be missing in the first place.

  11. Dear Katrin, I’m glad you worked that out for yourself. Things can get so tangled up and complicated when hurt feelings are involved. Sometimes we need a little time to detach just enough to think more clearly and see our way through. I know I do.

  12. I agree with much of the article, but not everything (for example, in my opinion and experience, groveling is never appropriate, healing, or otherwise useful).

    In my private practice, I use a 5-part model (though every part is not always necessary): Find the truth in the other’s position, Acknowledge the other’s feelings/thoughts/values, Share your feelings, Express appreciation for the other, Inquiry to deepen understanding and connection.

    For some couples I see, using the Five Apology types that Chapman talks about is a helpful framework.

  13. By groveling I meant, set aside false pride and apologize from a position of humility. As a couples counselor I’m sure you have seen people struggle over this concept. I wasn’t familiar with Gary Chapman, so I googled him and found terrific guidance for couples. http://www.fivelovelanguages.com/learn_apology.html

    Thank you!

  14. I just reread my comments, and do I sound complicated and labored. And that is how I felt when I wrote it, ending with utter exhaustion, but not quite. this is followed by a lightness in spirit and resolve.

    Thanks, doc, for putting up with me and your nice comment. Kat


  15. My pleasure, Kat. Have a nice weekend.

  16. Hi – found your website when I was struggling with my feelings over an age old quandry I found myself in with my sister. We seem to have this happen over and over again – where we have a distancing because “something is wrong” or “has happened”, usually a difference not acknowledged or dealt with and then the resulting separation (cold shoulder). This happens in most, if not all of my relationships. Then the quandry of what or if to say, how to address it, because it probably involves apologies from both parties. This seems to be the crux and crucible of all human relationship. I did call, we got through it, and later I recognized that our talk had the components of your article. Doesn’t this very thing drive to the heart of all our human connection? Why do we struggle so with it? Thank you for addressing it. It was most helpful. Suzanne

  17. My husband has a great saying regarding qualifying apologies: Don’t ruin an apology with a ‘but’. Yup, he’s mine, i married him. *grins*

  18. Thanks for such a thoughtful article on apologies and forgiveness. I recently hurt someone terribly and have been very forthcoming with apologies and explanations (making myself very vulnerable with giving them. Not only have the apologies not been accepted, they haven’t been acknowledged in the slightest. This hurts almost as bad as anything as I’ve experienced in 54 years and I can’t imagine that this person who I deeply care for is such an ass that he won’t even acknowledge my apologies. This is just mind-boggling to me. I understand how hurt he is but turning it back around at me in this way seems sooooo downright mean. Geeze, at least I wasn’t mean. Just thoughtless. Thanks for letting me vent.

  19. This is what I needed to hear…especially this part. “Try seeing it from your transgressor’s point of view, or from God’s. Compassion doesn’t replace the apology; it does make it easier to hear,” and “or the one who accepted the apology, because you used your power over a vulnerable soul with generosity of spirit instead of twisting the knife.” I was tempted tonight to make my boyfriend suffer by giving him the cold shoulder, so he could feel some of the hurt I am feeling…but then I remembered how our loving God does not do that. He just forgives us whether or not we deserve it. The least I can do is try to share some of that grace.

  20. I don’t believe that forgiveness is the same as accepting an apology. I struggle with accepting an apology. Not because I don’t forgive the person or because I don’t fell that they needed to apologize but because it is uncomfortable for me and I can see and feel the discomfort in the other person. I have 2 very close people that are in AA. They are getting ready to complete the step in which they make apologies. In the past when someone apologizes to me I have said “thank you” or “everything is good, don’t worry about it”. It always seems that they are looking for more from me. What do I say? Yes, they hurt me. I understand the circumstances in which hurt was delivered. I understand that this is part of the process that they need to go through. What can I say, how can I react so that it helps us both?



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