Feeling sorry? Know how to apologise sincerely

It is very important to use the right words when we apologise in order to be forgiven. Read on to learn what to say, and what to do.
Apologising is only beneficial if it is done in the right way, with the right intention in mind. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Anjuri Nayar Singh Published: 11 May 2024, 10:30 am IST

Saying “sorry” doesn’t come easy to many people. Besides, many a times while we do offer an apology, to most it may not seem genuine. However, if you are truly sorry, and you want it to reflect in your apology, you must choose your words carefully, have the right tone and know why you are apologising.

While confessing to being wrong is not anyone’s favourite thing, a good apology can go a long way in mending relationships. So if you are all set to make amends, and are just wondering how to go about framing your apology, read on! These tips are sure to help you understand how to apologise.

What is a good apology?

An apology it is the act of saying “sorry” after you have inadvertently or on purpose caused harm or hurt someone. “Apologising is a very important part of relationship building as it is the first act of submission and acceptance on being on the same platform as the person you are apologising to. This must be done with full sincerity, otherwise the purpose is lost,” explains counselling psychologist, hypnotherapist and past life regression therapist Anu Goel.

A good apology should have all the six elements: expression of regret, explanation of what went wrong, taking responsibility, repentance, repair and asking for forgiveness, states this study, published in the journal Negotiation and Conflict Management Research. It adds that the more components you add to your apology, the more effective it will be.

Tips to apologise efficiently

When it comes to apologising, it needs to be done keeping a few things in mind. Here are some of the tips that will make your apology heartfelt, effective and sincere.

1. Acknowledge what you did wrong

This is the first step of apologising to someone. It is very important to admit that you were wrong. “Don’t try to be vague in your apologies. If the other person feels that you know exactly what you did wrong, half the battle is already won,” says Goel. Your intent behind what went wrong is crucial, and you must talk about that. According to a study, published in Plos One, the intentionality behind the offence is crucial while asking for forgiveness. If the intention was different than the outcome, it’s easier to be forgiven.

2. Explanation of events

Once you have acknowledged what you did wrong, next comes the explanation of how things turned out the way they did. “Try not to make excuses while explaining what happened. Sometimes it is just best to say, ‘I have no excuse’,” says Goel. A study, published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, talks about the association between humility and apologising. It states that if you have greater intellectual humility, or our mindset that defines how we conduct ourselves, you will be able to give better apologies.

While apologising, it is very important to explain where you went wrong and not make excuses. Image courtesy: Pexels

3. Expression of regret

It is very important to express your remorse while apologising. “If you are feeling ashamed of what you have done, you must say so openly and honestly,” advises Goel. A study, published in the journal Motivation and Emotion, states that people value the regret you feel over other negative emotions that you display.

4. Take responsibility

It is very important to not blame the situation, or the people around you, and take complete responsibility. “Taking responsibility is very important. You must be very careful that you talk about what you did wrong, rather than passing on the blame,” says Goel. A research paper, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, suggests self-compassion is very important while taking responsibility for your actions. There is a chain reaction that starts from self-compassion and leads to acknowledging one’s mistakes.

5. Make amends

You must talk about how you can make amends after you offer an apology. It is very important to talk about how you can rectify the situation. “This goes a long way in building the relationship. If you have damaged someone’s car, offer to fix it – stuff like this can often encourage a feeling of forgiveness,” says Goel. This study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, states that apology and restitution increase empathy as well as forgiveness.

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6. Actually request forgiveness

This is the final step of your apology. Make sure you ask the offended party to forgive you. “This will ensure that you don’t just assume that they will forgive you now that you have explained,” says Goel. However, she adds that one must be patient as forgiving someone can take time.

Also Read: 9 reasons why apologising in a relationship and forgiving your partner are crucial

Statements that you should never make while apologising

There are some statements that you should refrain from while offering an apology. Marjorie Ingall and Susan McCarthy, the authors of the book Sorry, Sorry, Sorry: The Case for Good Apologies, as well as professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh Karina Schumann in her research, list out some words that should never be used.

  • Sorry if…(you are offended, you are hurt…)
  • Sorry but…(sorry but I had to do this…)
  • Sorry, you…(sorry you took this the wrong way)
  • It was just a joke
  • I didn’t mean it
  • Why is this a big deal
  • Obviously
  • Regrettable
  • Unfortunate

When to not apologise

While it is great to acknowledge when you have gone wrong, there are certain situations when you must not apologise as well. A study, published in The European Journal of Social Psychology, states that refusing to apologise when things are not in your control, can increase your self-esteem.

After apologising, one must try and make amends. Image courtesy: Pexels

It is important to understand that you don’t need to apologise if you don’t have time for something that someone else wants you to do, or if you don’t do something, someone else asked you to. “You don’t need to feel sorry just because you said no to someone,” explains Goel. Also, an apology is not required if you reject someone romantically. A study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, states that apologising after you reject someone will make them feel worse.


So while it is very important to apologise when you do something wrong, apologising from the heart, accepting your mistakes, taking responsibility and making amends is what works best while asking for forgiveness. Also, your intention behind the offence should be made clear.


Anjuri Nayar Singh

Anjuri Nayar Singh has over 12 years of experience in writing for various topics including lifestyle, films, television and OTT. She also writes on art and culture, education and human interest stories. ...Read More

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