How To Say You’re Sorry

by Devora Krasnianski, founder of Adai Ad Institute

 This one is about relationships in general. And particularly to your spouse. 

Apologies ought to be easy. After all, everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Yet so many find it quite difficult to say those three important words  “I am sorry”.

Components of a good apology

Basically, you have to own up to what you did. You have to take responsibility for your action. Even if that makes you uncomfortable. Think it in first-person. And then say it in first-person.  “I am sorry that I left you waiting for 15 minutes.” Not “I’m sorry that you were waiting for 15 minutes.”

Then show that you acknowledge how whatever you did, or didn’t do, has impacted the other person.  “I recognize that my coming late inconvenienced you and your family.”

You might add an explanation, but realize that it isn’t an excuse. “I was late because I was studying for a final last night and just couldn’t wake up in the morning, but still that’s no excuse.”

And that’s it.  Let him respond as he feels. Allow him to process. Allow him to still be upset.   This most definitely is not the time to tell him how to feel.

A good apology means laying yourself bare. It means putting yourself in the other person’s position, giving them what they want and need. In short, it’s not about you. 

What not to include in your apology.

“I’m sorry you feel that way… It wasn’t what I intended.”  “You’re taking it out of proportion.” “Your’re so sensitive.”  How he feels is up to him. You own up to the fact that you hurt someone and apologize.

“I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings…”  Adding that  if is somewhat deflecting your responsibility. It is like saying “I am sorry that you were insulted by my innocent words”, as if possibly you didn’t say something insensitive after all.  Just be sorry that he was insulted by your poor choice of words. “I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings.”

“I’m sorry for being rude, but you were [driving me crazy with those jokes]”  That is blaming the other one for your actions. Just apologize for being rude; don’t deflect any of your responsibility.

“I’m sorry. I obviously didn’t mean it the way you misconstrued it.”  Now you are blaming the other for misunderstanding the words you said. As if it is his fault. And that word obviously is again pushing responsibility; as if the other person is so dumb to think you meant it in that way.

“I’m sorry for what happened.”  Without actually stating what you did wrong. That’s not taking enough ownership of whatever it is that you did. Are you too ashamed to actually hear your own voice say what you did?

“Let’s forget this ever happened.” “Let’s move forward from here.”   The one who wronged has no right to say that, you can’t rush the forgiveness process. These words are reserved for the one who was wronged to say when he is ready.

And of course tone and timing matter.

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