“I’m sorry you took it that way.”

An apology? Not even close. The apologizer blames the hurt person for how s/he reacted.

If you’ve ever had someone fake apologize without expressing or remorse or showing that they “got it”


If you’ve ever wanted to apologize but felt your apology fell flat, consider these rules for making an effective apology.

You may need these four rules for the next time you lose your cool, let someone down or otherwise “blow it.”

Alternatively, you may want to hand this post to someone who need to read it.

  1. Say you’re sorry. Show empathy and remorse. Tell the other person how much you regret what you did and that you know it was wrong. Sincerely mean what you say.
  • Admit responsibility. Apologize for what you’ve done. Don’t try to make an excuse, justify your behavior or otherwise shift the blame. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”
  • Make amends. It may not be enough to apologize. Do your best to right the situation.  
  • Promise it won’t happen again. Say you’ll change and explain how you plan to change. Those who apologize as if it gives them a “get out of jail free card” or erases the problem haven’t fully apologized.

The good news? A genuine apology can gain true forgiveness and move a relationship forward in a positive way.

If you liked this short article, you might enjoy Solutionshttps://www.amazon.com/Solutions-Workplace-Revelations-Challenges-Firefights-ebook/dp/B00MWB18LA/ref=sr_1_7?dchild=1&keywords=Lynne+Curry&qid=1613967859&sr=8-7, a collection of 65 of my best magazine and newspaper articles offering strategies for addressing real-life challenges.

Lynne Curry, Ph.D., SPHR, is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016, https://amzn.to/30V5JO6) and “Solutions”, https://amzn.to/2GYlnAN (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com). Send your questions to her at https://workplacecoachblog.com/ask-a-coach/ or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.  www.workplacecoachblog.com.

Subscribing to the blog is easy

If you’d like to get 3 to 5 posts a week delivered to your inbox (and NO spam), just add your email address below. (I’ll never sell it.) I’m glad you’ve joined this vibrant blog. Thank you!

10 thoughts on “The Right Way to Apologize

  1. This should be required reading for…well…everyone, Lynne. All of us. While I believe we’re wise to forgive even before it’s asked of us, moving a relationship forward absolutely requires the steps you’ve outlined here. Thank you.

  2. Paulette Dale, Ph. D, Author, “Did You Say Something, Susan” How Any Woman Can Gain Confidence With Assertive Communication says:

    Yessss! Sincerely apologizing is a highly assertive act. Too many people mistakenly believe that apologizing diminishes them in the eyes of others.

    In my estimation, a sincere apology elevates us when we realize our words or actions were hurtful to others.

    Ben Franklin’s quote says it all, doesn’t it!

  3. Thank you for writing this! I also have long called this the “fake apology” and I detest it. I’d rather they didn’t even bother, than give me this “I’m sorry you took it that way” drivel.

    1. Thanks, Dee, Paulette & Cheryl:) Am starting my new book, Navigating Conflict and am returning to many of the themes I wrote when I wrote Solutions:)

  4. My dearest friend was with me on a mini vacation when I learned my father died. She told me, before I said a word, that she didn’t want to talk about him because it made her too sad. When I returned home and discontinued my relation ship with her, she caught on after time and asked why. When I told her, she said “I am sorry you feel that way. ” The apology was nearly equal to her assuming primary griever position in my father’s death in its complete disregard for my feelings, and we have not been friends since. I realized then we weren’t really friends at all.

    1. Barbara, I am so sorry. I am so sorry you lost your father and your once good friend didn’t support you because she lacked the heart necessary. I’m guessing you’re a better friend to your friends. Your story touched me, thank you for sharing. I remember when my first son died from an inoperable heart disease and a once-friend told me that she couldn’t look at me because it made her feel that she lived in a world where children could die. I still remember having the sense of “how shallow.” Thank you again for sharing a story that will touch many.

  5. Just read Blame Shifter and this post. Both should be required reading for everyone who works or lives with other people. I loved your response to The Blame Shifter who clearly expected to be comforted. It wasn’t just that you called her on her selfish expectations of other people, but you also empowered her by telling her the solution was in her own hands. Hopefully, she got the message.

    1. Wendy, thank you! I had the sense Ms. Blame Shifter valued “giving it straight,” so I asked “how honest do you want me to be?” and got her permission before I gave her my thoughts:)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *