Your Simple Guide to Apologizing to Someone You’ve Hurt

By: Mahmoud Salah El-Din

To err is to human; we all mess up every once in a while, then wish we had an undo button
afterwards. What I’m trying to say is, chances are you probably have said something you
shouldn’t have or crossed someone’s limits at least once. Ultimately, the damage has been
done, so having a breakdown or cutting ties with the person will not change anything; however,
what is up to you now is what you decide to do next. It takes courage to face the person you’ve
hurt and admit that you were wrong. After all, there’s a reason why the song is called “Sorry
Seems To Be The Hardest Word”. With that being said, here are a few tips on how – and when – to
beg someone’s pardon.

Before discussing the technique of apologizing to someone, it’s important to understand that
saying sorry isn’t a deus ex machina; whatever the problem that caused conflict in the first place
is, it will not magically go away when you show your remorse, so you should not have sorry as
your go-to card whenever things go south. An apology should, in contrast, be used more
sparingly as it does not actually solve the problem, it just indicates that you’re ready to change
for the better. Think of it this way, apologizing is like trying to put a band-aid on a 4th-degree
burn: it’ll probably help, and it’ll show your intention of alleviating the pain, but it certainly won’t
be enough. Over-apologizing will also make your apologies lose their value as people will think
they’re not actually sincere.

With that in mind, let’s discuss the elements of the apology itself. Researching this topic, I found
a lot of homogenous advice- make sure your apology comes from within your heart, use the
power of a sincere apology, yadda yadda yadda. So instead of repeating the same stuff that
virtually everyone knows, I’ll take you through some common mistakes people make when
apologizing, then I’ll show you how to properly apologize to someone.

A. Things you shouldn’t do if you wish to save that relationship at stake.

To start with, don’t ever apologize over text; don’t do it. It may be very tempting to get the
apology over with all while avoiding the awkwardness involved with the situation, but you do
that, and you’ll practically be booking a one-way ticket to ruined relationships-ville. That’s
because -and I hate to say it- apologies done via text aren’t actually sincere no matter how you
phrase them; they give off the notion of you belittling the situation to the extent of not even
acknowledging it personally, which adds insult to the injury.

Another thing you should avoid doing is making excuses. It goes without saying that adding a
“but” to your apology automatically devalues it. Apologies are supposed to point out that you
own up to your actions and wish to change them; making excuses directly negates that. It’s like
saying, “Hey, I’m really sorry, but I had every right to do so and so,” it just doesn’t make sense.
That is why if you truly wish to make amends, you have to let go of your pride and admit you
were wrong- even if you had good intentions.

Last but not least, do not expect immediate forgiveness. I’ll go as far as to say that you ought to
encourage the other person to take their time before deciding whether they can find a place in
their heart to forgive you or not. When the damage is too severe, some relationships simply
cannot heal- and you have to accept that. Trust me, both of you are better off ending a broken
relationship than staying in it with the hopes that things will change, but don’t worry, it takes a lot
of problems to ruin a relationship permanently. And so, chances are, your relationship is
probably on the safe side.

B. How to apologize to someone.

Now, onto the apology. To maximize the chances of an apology being effective, you have to
KISS- Keep It Stupid Simple. Any apology is made up of 4 basic steps:

  1. Acknowledge what you did and how it affected the other person.
  2. Explain how you, in hindsight, realize how hurtful your actions were.
  3. State that you understand if they cannot forgive you yet.
  4. Propose a way to avoid repeating the offence; don’t just make empty promises, you have
    to show the other person you truly changed.
    That was just a blueprint of what an apology should look like; however, that is not to say that
    apologies are a one-size-fits-all type of thing. You should shape your apology based on what
    you know about the other person. For instance, some people are really affectionate and caring,
    so your apology should be more in terms of feelings and emotions- as that is what they value
    most. Others tend to be more analytical, so you would have to emphasize more on ways to
    change.

In a nutshell, while an apology is a seemingly simple way to right wrongs and start a new page
with someone you’ve hurt, what you do afterwards is what is more important; actions speak
louder than words, so stop talking and start doing.

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