Ultimate Guide On How to Apologize – The Right Way vs. The Wrong way

The Conscious Vibe - When To Apologize

Ultimate Guide On How to Apologize – The Right Way vs. The Wrong way

We’ve all seen an apology gone bad. Those insincere, half-hearted, “”doing it for all the wrong reasons”” type apologies.

Politicians, as well as husbands & wives everywhere have mastered these types of super awkward poor-quality apologies. But most people can tell if you’re apology is heartfelt for the right reasons, or if you’re apologizing for all the wrong reasons.

Apologizing is where Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is more important than Logical intelligence (IQ)

To make sure your apology ‘hits home’ and feels good for everybody, here’s the ultimate guide to apologizing.

Step 1: Know When to Apologize And When, NOT, To Apologize

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There are plenty of good reasons to apologize and a few good reasons why you probably shouldn’t. If you already know that you need to apologize, then go ahead and skip to step 2.

Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Probably Apologize.

  1. Relationship Repair
  • Apologizing helps put a conflict behind you and allows all parties to move forward more easily.
  • Apologizing acts as a ‘spark’ to mend a relationship by acting as the catalyst to open the lines of communication.

2. To Re-Built Trust

  • Apologize if you’ve broken a rule of social conduct
  • Apologize to shows that you are capable of taking responsibility your our actions
  • Apologize to let people know you’re not proud of your action and that people can trust that you won’t repeat the same mistake.
  • Apologize If you didn’t do something you were supposed to do. For example, missing a meeting, forgetting to pick something up, or telling a secret.

3. Apologizing Shows Empathy Towards Others’ Feelings

Apologizing shows that you care about the other person’s feelings. By apologizing to someone you’ve hurt, you then validate their feelings. This is important for re-building trust, mending the relationship, and for the other person’s emotional sanity.

  • Apologize If you hurt someone by teasing, even if you didn’t mean it.
  • Apologize If you lose or break something that belonged to someone else.
  • By apologizing to another person you allow you apology ton ease their anger

4. Apologizing Can Restore Social Order

If your mistake in on a large scale then it may cause social unrest (politicians, public figures, CEO’s). A true heartfelt and sincere apology can resolve conflicts and restore social harmony. A poor apology that is not heartfelt, can make things worse.Apologizing

5. Can Help Restore Your Personal Reputation

  • Apologizing can help heal shame.
  • Apologizing can help your mental health, especially if you did something you knew was wrong. Apologizing will help ease your guilt and anxiety.

Top 17 Reasons Why You Should Probably NOT Apologize

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  1. If Apologizing Lessens The Impact Of Future Apologies.
  2. When You’re Asking To Talk In A Group
  3. When You’re Feeling Unsure Of Yourself
  4. When Apologizing is not enough (if there’s something you can should do instead)
  5. When You Don’t Know Exactly Why
  6. If You Are Genuinely Not Sorry
  7. When It Sounds Hollow
  8. For Loving Someone
  9. For Following A Dream
  10. For Ending A Toxic Relationship
  11. For High Expectations
  12. Bad Dancing
  13. For Telling The Truth

Step 2: Preparing For An Apology

If you have to apologize to the point where you’re ‘googling it’ then you need to make sure to prepare correctly

  • Find The Right Time to Apologize.

Don’t ambush the person who you’re apologizing to. Find a time that you know will work for both of you.

  • Always Apologize In Person. (But If You Can’t Don’t Wait)

No e-mails, phone calls, or video calls from your car. Apologizing in personal will always come across as more sincere and heartfelt.

If for whatever reason, you can’t apologize in person, reach-out digitally in some fashion, but acknowledge that you understand that an in-persona apology would have been better.

  • Choose a Quiet or Private Setting For The Apology.

A public apology makes the apology about you. The more private, the more empathetic and sincere the apology come across.

  • Make Sure You Have Enough Time To Have A Complete Conversation.

You don’t want to rush yourself when you apologize. Or worse yet rush whoever you are apologizing to.

  • Prepare To Listen To The Other Person.

Apologizing is not about a one-way conversation. Apologizing is more about listening, accepting responsibility, and coming to terms.

  • Give Up The Idea of Being “Right.

Sometimes being right doesn’t matter. If you were right, but a jerk, then you were still a jerk.

  • Avoid Justifying Your Actions.

Always take full responsibility and never justify poor behavior. “I was only a jerk because”… the rest doesn’t matter. Take FULL responsibility.


  • ALSO Write Your Apology Down For Added Impact.

I thought “Always apologize in person” ? Yes, writing down your apology is not “in place of” an in-personal apology, its “along side of” an in-persona apology.

If you want your apology to really ‘hit home’, then apologize in-persona, but ALSO write an apology note. The added effort will be greatly appreciated by the recipient.

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Step 3: 7 Key Elements Of A Perfect Apology

The goal of an apology is to mend a relationship. Relationships are vastly difficult to completely understand in their full complexity, but there’s something about a relationship that is built of a level of trust and transparency.

The deeper your relationship is with someone (or something), the more in-tune you are, and the more you can tell is something is ‘off’.

You definitely don’t want the ‘vibe’ of your apology to miss-the-mark. The goal is to really connect to whoever you are apologizing to. And here are some ways to do that.

1. Use Open And Humble Body Language.

Don’t cross your arms or look up at the sky the whole time. You want to come across as equals as a human being. Don’t tower over them. Overall, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about body language. Just be open and transparent and your body language will match.

2. Take Responsibility

Own up to your missteps. No “buts” or “ifs” just take full responsibility for your actions (or lack there of). But you don’t need to take responsibility for something out of your control or other people’s faults.

3. Drop Your Defenses

Don’t get all defensive or make excuses. It can feel natural to get defensive or feel like you’re “getting attacked”. Take responsibility with-out getting defensive.

4. Keep It Real. Show Empathy. Be Authentic.

People can see through an inauthentic apology. If you give a “corporate apology” it will not resonate with your audience. You need to be authentic.

5. Let Them Know That You Realize You Hurt Them.

Apologizing isn’t just about taking responsibility. You have to let the other person know that you understand the harm you may have caused them. Whether you meant harm or not.

6. Give Them Time To Talk.

Apologizing is not all about you. Give the other side time to tell their side, their opinions, and display their feelings. Don’t be dismissive of their talking points.

7. State How You Will Remedy The Situation.

Apologizing is good, but talk is talk. Often an apology needs to be back up with future action. Make sure you communicate on how you plan to improve your behavior or remedy the situation.

Step 4: After The Apology: The Repair Process

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1. Be Patient.

Just because you apologized, that doesn’t mean the conflict is resolved. Sometimes an apology needs some time to ‘soak in’. Sometimes it takes years. Be patient, and don’t over compensate by being overly nice as this often comes across as insincere.

2. Stick To Your Word. 

If you promised action or change as part of your apology, then you better stick to your word. If you fail to act as part of your apology, then you will remembered for such and you’re apology is voided.

Step 5: How to Know If Your Apology Was Accepted

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Understanding how your apology was received is far from an exact science. It’s more of a ‘gut feel’ or a vibe that you get from the other person.

Usually you’ll know for sure if your apology went very well or very bad. But more complex apologies usually land somewhere in the middle. A common response it that it went “OK”.

 Be patient and sometimes if you just don’t get the feel that your apology was accepted, then try apologizing again. Often, after some reflection, we realize that we may not have apologized as well as we wanted to, or maybe not received as well as we wanted to. If that’s the case, go back to step 1.

Top 5 Phrases NOT To Say When Apologizing

  1. “I’m sorry you’re upset.”

Translation: I don’t like it that you’re mad at me.

2. “I’m Sorry, But…” or  “I know, I just …”

Translation:  That’s not an apology its a justification

3. “Yeah, well, sometimes you …”

Translation: Deflecting and another justification. Also escalating

4. “I don’t want to fight about this!”

Translation:  No-one “wants” to fight. This puts the other person in defense

5. “I’m not perfect.” 

Translation: We all know that no-ones perfect. Don’t make excuses, just take responsibility


Ultimately, apologizing should come naturally. You shouldn’t have to overthink it. When you’re apologizing just mean what you say, and have empathy for whoever you’re apologizing to, and you’ll have nothing to worry about.

Sometimes, whether we’re spending too much time in the YouTube comments, or too much time in the office, we forget to act with genuine empathy and compassion towards our fellow human beings, and a simple apology can go along way in building strong relationships both on a personal level and in your community.

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