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What A Good Apology Looks Like & Why It’s So Important


Anyone who has ever had their feelings hurt or been upset over the actions of another can tell you that “sorry” alone doesn’t really fix it. Especially if it’s the cringy “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I’m sorry you are so upset” or “I SAID I’m sorry, when are you going to get over this?”

Whether we make a mistake in our professional lives or within important relationships, a great deal more goes into a good apology than a single word. An effective apology isn’t about doing it “right” or getting out of trouble, it’s about trying to really see the other person and acknowledge their experience of hurt or injury.

Of course, it can be difficult to admit our mistakes or missteps, it requires a certain amount of vulnerability and humility to offer a sincere apology. Still, sincere, effective apologies are essential for repairing relationships of all kinds and a good apology can send the message that you value the relationship and that other person’s point of view.

What makes for an effective apology?

· Expressing sincere regret

· Explaining what went wrong

· Acknowledgement of responsibility

· Conveying remorse

· A willingness to repair

· Asking for forgiveness

· Understanding that it might not be offered immediately or ever

So what might this look like in practice? Let’s say you are coupled and get into an argument with your partner. In the middle of it you get upset and call them a derogatory name. You instantly wish you could take it back but you see the hurt in their face. In the moment, you can try to offer an apology.

“I’m sorry I said that, I can see I’ve hurt you. I was getting frustrated and I took it out on you in an unfair and unkind way that isn’t okay. It’s my responsibility to watch my words, I am going to work on that. How can I make this right? Can you forgive me?”

What about a work responsibility that you completely missed and it negatively impacted someone else?

“I’m sorry that I didn’t get X,Y,Z done and I know it put you in an uncomfortable spot. I was preoccupied with this other project and I let the ball drop on this. It was my responsibility to ask for help prioritizing or communicate with you I needed more time. I’m sorry I let you/the team down. I am going to change how I keep track of projects so this doesn’t happen again. What else can I do to make this right?”

Maybe you came home and overreacted when your child did something wrong.

“I’m sorry I yelled at you in such an angry, scary way. I was upset that you didn’t do what I asked but you deserved to be told, not shouted at. I had a hard day and was angry but it’s my responsibility to calm myself down and manage my own feelings, not yours. I’m going to work on doing a better job of that. I’m sorry I scared you, can you forgive me?”

The reality is that we all make mistakes, say the wrong thing the wrong way, hurt people we care about, let the ball drop at work and at home. Conflict, disagreements and hurt feelings are inevitable, but effective repair can not just help offset the transgression, it can even deepen connection.


Do you need help with communication? Are you looking for therapy in Huntington Beach? Are you interested in learning how a Huntington Beach psychotherapist might help you in your life and relationships? Contact me, Chris Duquette, a Huntington Beach therapist at 714-474-3794 text or talk.

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© 2019 by Christine Duquette, AMFT