When “I’m sorry” is what you need to say


Apologies are something most of us don’t do well or do often enough.

We think about them, perhaps even brood about them, or we may simply ignore the need or in some cases, may be totally unaware of it. But a truly heartfelt “I am sorry”can make the receiver and the giver feel better and may even mend a broken relationship or a heart.

“The decision to apologize is a tug-of-war between stubborn pride and guilt. . . . Making a sincere apology is an act of courage, not a sign of weakness.”

If you would like to get better at giving apologies, or if you are currently in a personal battle between pride and guilt the following 3 R’s might help you sort it out.

3 R’s of a sincere apology:

1. Responsibility

  • Accept responsibility for what was said or done.
  • This is the hardest part, I know. It is tough to admit to yourself, yet alone someone else – especially the person you have hurt – that you have done something wrong – intentionally or not. But it really is an act of courage, and one that can repair and enrich relationships.

2. Remorse

  • Allow yourself to feel the sadness or embarrassment associated with what you have done. Pushing it away will only make you feel worse, and will never make the one you hurt feel any better.
  • Accept and explain how you feel when you apologize.
  • Assure the person you have hurt that you won’t do the same again in the future.
    • “I realize what I said really hurt you, it was thoughtless/unkind/wrong and I promise not to do it again. I am sorry. I was wrong/jealous/immature.

3. Reparations

  • “How can I make this up to you?” “Is there anything I can do to make this better?
  • Then listen and do not REACT! Simply let them share their feelings with you. Remember you have thinking about your apology for awhile, but they are just hearing it for the first time and may need a minute or longer to fully process and accept it.
  • If you can, do what they ask you to, and if not, talk about solutions until one is found and agreed upon without getting upset or changing the sincerity of your apology.

Special note:  There is always a chance the recipient might not be ready to accept your apology now or ever – the important part is that you have sincerely shared your feelings. If this happens, let them know again how sorry you are and then just listen. Try not to be defensive, do not let your pride get in the way. You have hurt them, and they might need to vent. If they refuse or are not ready to accept your apology, don’t be upset and simply try to forgive yourself in the moment, and depending on the situation, you may want to try again in the future. If not, be open to whatever happens.


Now! The sooner you apologize the better, but do not let the passage of time persuade you that an apology is no longer needed, won’t matter, or will simply stir up old hurts.

One of the most touching and beautiful apologies I ever received occurred years later, long after the sting of the situation had faded for me. Yet, when I received the apology it opened my heart in ways I did not even know were possible. I was completely impressed by the courage and kindness of the giver and it inspired me to be more open about apologizing to others in the future.

Don’t miss the chance to make open someone’s heart or heal old wounds.

Whether you are apologizing for being short with a store clerk, stepping on the toes of a colleague or for deeply hurting someone you love, follow the three R’s to help you right your wrong. You will gain as much peace of mind as you give, and will undoubtedly brighten someone’s day and maybe even enrich their life.

As my Valentine’s Day gift to my readers and a way of spreading love this week, if you have an apology you want to give, but haven’t yet mustered the courage, I will give a free 30 minute, apology practice session to the first 3 folks who send me an email at wishfulthinkingworks@gmail.com Include your name and a brief description of the situation. If you have been thinking about it, it is time to do it! 

You can do it!

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