Whether it’s to a friend, coworker, spouse or roommate, we all have to apologize sometimes. To make sure your “I’m sorry” comes off the right way, be certain to avoid these common apology mistakes.
You Say, “I’m Sorry, But…”
Tagging “but” onto an apology is an excuse that undermines the sincerity of the words that came before it. The most successful apologies are short, genuine and typically include just three parts: an acknowledgment of how your action affected the person, an “I’m sorry” and a plan of attack for what you’re going to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
You Say, “I’m Sorry You Felt…”
Yikes. This one’s a doozy—and a common one at that. This not only invalidates the feelings of the person you’re apologizing to, but it puts the blame on them. As in “I’m sorry you felt hurt by what I did, but I’m not sorry that I did it.” When it comes to apologizing, being sincere and humble are the ways to go. This isn’t really a time for pride or trying to be right—assuming your end goal is forgiveness and not further resentment.
Providing context for why you treated someone a certain way is one thing; explaining your actions to the point that it becomes an excuse is another. For example, let’s say your friend recently went through a horrible breakup and you felt you weren’t there for her enough. Don’t say, “I’m sorry I’ve been M.I.A. I had a work presentation and I had to plan a birthday dinner and I had another date with that guy I told you about from Tinder and…” Instead, if you feel the need to give her a little insight into what’s going on, say, “I’m sorry I’ve been M.I.A. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed recently.”
Your Timing Is Off
The ideal apology doesn’t come too early or too late. In terms of earliness, sometimes people need a minute to cool down. By going in too early, you run the risk of catching them at a point when they’re not ready to forgive you yet. On the flip side, waiting too long can signify that you don’t really care about righting your wrongs. Find a middle ground and you’ll set yourself up for apology success. (But remember that, in most cases, it’s better late than never.)