How to Say Sorry and Mean It
Effectively saying sorry helps reduce tension in your relationships and makes everyone feel better. It also kickstarts the healing process, invites everyone to express themselves and feel heard, and provides an opportunity to reset emotions and move on.
However, just throwing the word "sorry" into the conversation isn't enough. Learn how to sincerely apologize to strengthen your relationships.
1. Reflect Before You Apologize
Apologies should always sound sincere, not sarcastic or forced. If you don't feel ready to apologize, that's okay. Take some time to reflect on what you said or did and how it affected the other person. Try to put yourself in their shoes to understand why they feel hurt or upset. When you feel regret or remorse for causing them pain, your apology will come across as genuine.
2. Say the Words "I am Sorry"
The three words, "I am sorry," carry a lot of power and should absolutely cross your lips during your apology. In fact, the other person is undoubtedly waiting to hear this phrase. When you own up to your mistake and say, "I am sorry," do not follow it with a "but" phrase. Doing so will immediately deflect responsibility away from yourself and make your apology seem like lip service.
3. Be Specific About What You Are Apologizing For
Your apology will also feel genuine if you point out exactly what you regret doing or saying. This shows that you recognize how you hurt the other person, that you've spent some time thinking about your actions, and that you know what to avoid doing or saying in the future.
If it turns out the other person is upset for an entirely different reason, this also gives them a chance to bring it up. You both need to understand each other to move forward.
4. Be Empathetic
Acknowledge how your actions hurt the other person. Reiterate that you know what you said or did was uncalled for, and explain what you would do differently in the future.
For example, you might say, "I am sorry I hung up on you. I know that made you feel unimportant, and I should have stayed on the line and expressed my feelings or asked to speak at another time. It was rude of me to just cut you off when you were trying to help, and I won't do it again."
5. Ask for Forgiveness
End your apology by saying, "Can you forgive me?" Allow the other person some time to think. They may still feel upset and require time to process their emotions and your apology. If they offer their forgiveness, take a big deep breath, smile, say thank you, and move on to a more pleasant conversation topic.
Making mistakes is easy, but apologizing for them can feel really difficult and awkward. This life skill gets easier -- and more effective -- over time.