How to Apologize More Effectively

How to Apologize More Effectively

An apology is the superglue of life. It can repair just about anything.

Lynn Johnston

It’s one of those little inevitabilities of life:

Sooner or later…

You’ll have to apologize.

Not your favorite thing to do? You’re in good company.

Apologizing can feel awkward, intimidating… even downright impossible.

Given all this, it’s a good idea to make our apologies as effective as we can!

But, how?

In their book, When Sorry Isn’t Enough, Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas (authors of The 5 Love Languages) highlight 5 unique “apology languages”— specific elements each of us prefers when receiving an apology.

Want to learn which fits your personality (or that of your partner, friend, or family member) best? You can take a free quiz here.)

Read on for these 5 simple ways you can start to apologize more effectively today:

1. Express regret

As simple as this sounds, sometimes just saying “I’m sorry” truly is the most effective way to apologize. (Just remember: When expressing true regret, no “if…”s, “but…”s, or excuses allowed.)


“I’m so sorry my comment hurt you.”

2. Take responsibility

So, you didn’t mean to cause pain or offense? Most of us don’t! That’s why this type of apology can be so powerful: By owning up to the impact of our words/actions, we can step out of the trap of defending ourselves, and simply acknowledge the unintended outcome of our choices.


“I was wrong to raise my voice earlier.”

3. Repent sincerely

True repentance extends beyond feeling regretful. It means choosing to turn away from the same mistake in the future. By stating our intention to choose differently going forward, we signal to the person to whom we apologize that we’re prepared to truly “walk the talk”.


“In the future, I’ll communicate my needs to you instead of waiting until my temper boils over.”

4. Ask for forgiveness

A good apology should be offered in the same spirit as a gift: Freely and without expectation. However, for some, a request for forgiveness can be a meaningful step toward healing a relationship. No need to grovel or go overboard; keep your request simple and sincere.


“Can you forgive me for causing you embarrassment?”

5. Make things right

Sometimes a mistake can’t be rectified. But, there’s almost always something we can do to improve the situation we’ve created. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes: What might be especially helpful right now? Offer to take a specific action, or you can simply ask them what you can do to make things right.


“Please allow me to pay for the damage to your car.”

Putting it All Together

Want to ensure your apology is as complete as it can be?

Just incorporate all of the elements above!

Here’s a little template you can use to construct your own apology:

I am so sorry for ________________. Although it was not my intent, I know my actions hurt you, and that is entirely my responsibility. I promise never to make this same choice again. I hope in time you can forgive me. In the meantime, I would love to correct the mistake I made by _____________. 


Enjoy this post? You might also like:

How to Practice Gratitude When You’re Not Feeling Particularly Grateful
Self-Compassion: 4 Ways to Start Practicing It Today
Your Emotional Wellness: 50+ Ways to Support It

Ready to learn how to apologize more effectively?