How to Genuinely Apologize and Not F*ck It Up

February 23, 2021

We’re human beings. Which means that inevitably we are going to both need to apologize at times, and be deserving of an apology at other points.

And we often fuck it up royally.

Not to worry, I’ve got you covered in this episode!

Some examples of how *not* to apologize:

  • You’re being too sensitive
  • I don’t know why you’re getting upset about this” or “no one else would get so upset over this
  • You’re taking it the wrong way
  • I love you
  • I may have done this, but you did that!
  • Forget  it ever happened” or “forget I said/did anything
  • I’m sorry I said / did that, but I never would have done it if you hadn’t made me feel that way / said / did that
  • I was just stressed / tired / hungry!” (I’ve been 100% guilty of this one ????)
  • Let’s just move on
  • I already said sorry, why can’t you let it go?

One of my least favourite ways to hear people so-called apologize:

I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I’m sorry if I offended you

  • Both of these feel dismissive and patronizing and shows a lack of compassion, understanding, or curiosity around WHY the other person feels the way that they do
  • Takes zero personal responsibility, puts the blame on the other person and the “I’m sorry *if* I offended you” is entirely conditional
  • Doesn’t identify the behaviour or comment that made someone feel that way, nor does it give any indication of changed behaviour and puts everything entirely on the other person
  • There will be times you genuinely didn’t do anything wrong and maybe you *are* sorry someone feels a particular way. But don’t mistake this kind of sentence as an actual apology, because it’s not.

For a genuine, sincere apology: you have to mean what you say. Intention matters here.

A true apology means genuine care, taking accountability, identifying the mistake, followed by changed behaviour – and sustaining that change, to the best of your abilities.

You have to be willing to change your behaviour, to grow and learn from the experience.

This requires empathy, compassion and understanding how the other person feels, especially based on their unique history and biography.

Plus, it’s very important to fully understand exactly WHY you are apologizing. This is why communication is so important. If you don’t understand why you’re apologizing, you shouldn’t be apologizing at all.

If you don’t understand why you’re apologizing, you shouldn’t be apologizing at all.

  1. Ask if they are up for a discussion
  2. Let them know you realize you hurt them and how
  3. Identify how you will be doing things differently moving forward, the changed behaviour, righting the situation
  4. Let them know that they can rely on your to follow through with the change. This is the most important. The changed behaviour has to be sustained, or there will be a total breakdown in trust.
  5. Show genuine remorse / regret
  6. Potentially optional: ask for forgiveness, check-in with the other person and see if there’s anything else that needs to be discussed. 

True apologies are HARD.

They require us to take full and total responsibility for our actions. We have to acknowledge we’ve done something wrong while also knowing that we can do better.

When we hang onto a deep belief of needing to be right, we close ourselves off from intimacy. 

When we can acknowledge and own up to our mistakes, however, it creates connection. It’s a reminder that we are all humans who make mistakes, and that act of vulnerability and courage give way to deeper connection.

“When you offer an apology from a place of shame and panic rather than self-reflection and remorse, what you’re seeking is absolution, not forgiveness.”

-Dr. Alexandra Soloman


Episode #241, How to Have Hard Conversations & Improve Communication

Episode #126, Forgiveness Isn’t Found, It’s Earned: Doing the Inner Work

Episode #78, Sorry, But Stop Apologizing

Questions?  Comments? Want to connect and chat about this episode? You can email me at, or DM me over on Instagram @emilygoughcoach or Facebook at Emily Gough Coaching.  I would absolutely love to connect with you and thank you for listening in real life and here any takeaways you had from this or other episodes!.  It makes me day to see you listening to the podcast and fills me up with pure joy. Seriously.  See you on the ‘gram!

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