How to apologize after a dispute

How to apologize after a dispute

An apology letter for a mistake is written to seek forgiveness after doing wrong to another party. When you find out you have made a mistake, be it in your business, work or home, besides a verbal apology, consider writing a letter to apologize for the mistake. Apologizing doesn’t make you weak but rather strong. An apology defeats your ego and makes you a better person.

Writing this letter can be tasking; you can struggle to get the best words to say sorry. In such a case you can rely on a sample or template.

What to include in an apology letter for mistake

  • Briefly explain what happened: When writing the letter, include your account of what occurred and why you feel the other person was hurt. At this moment avoid blame games; only address your role in the act.
  • Acknowledge the mistake: The best way to pass an apology is by owning the mistake. If you turn to blame others, you might make matters worse and fail to get a solution to the problem.
  • Seek forgiveness: Once you have owned the mistake, ask for forgiveness. Though you have wrong the other party, asking for forgiveness is a way of inviting them to find a solution to the problem.
  • Speak directly to the wronged person(s): Write the apology letter as if you are talking to the individual. By this act, you are making the letter personal. At the same time, your apology is focused, and chances of forgiveness are high.
  • Provide a solution: Besides seeking forgiveness, offer a solution to the problem. For example, if you erroneously sent few goods to a client, offer to top up the difference.

Apology letter for mistake format

Dear [recipient’s name],

I (we) acknowledge I (we) was wrong in [explain the mistake].

I (we) understand how frustrating it was for you to discover [what happened]. Kindly accept my (our) sincere apologies for any incontinence caused because of the mistake.

I (we) acknowledge that I (we) was wrong and I (we) take full responsibility for the mistake. The error was due to [the reason for the error]. It hardly happens, and I (we) believe it was because of [reason].

As a company, we have put in place adequate measures to make sure a repeat of the same never happens in days to come.

In the meantime [offer a solution.]

We are thanking you for understanding.

Sample apology letter/email for mistake

Mr. Bill McCarthy

57, Alvin Street

Date: 3rd March 2022

Subject: Apology for late delivery

Dear Mr. McCarthy,

I write this letter to offer heartfelt apologies for the late delivery of your order 12/2022 that was to be delivered to your premise on 02/01/2022. The order arrived three days later.

We are deeply apologetic for inconveniences caused to your business and customers. The lorry that was to deliver the parcel broke-down midway in the journey. Unfortunately, we did not have a standby vehicle on that day to take over the deliveries.

We sent another lorry the following day; thus, the parcel arrived three days later. Late deliveries hardly occur in our company since we always have a stand by lorry for emergencies but unfortunately, all Lorries were engaged, and the extra lorry was in the garage for servicing.

Once more accept our apologies; we are confident that this will not happen in the future.

Types of apology letter for mistake

Apology letter for a mistake to a client

In business, mistakes occur. If your staff wrongs any of your clients, it’s important to apologize to the customer. One of the main reasons businesses loses clients is a failure to apologize when mistakes happen. An apology letter for a mistake to a client will help to strengthen the business relationship. When writing the letter, consider the following details;

  • An account of what happened
  • Sincere apology
  • A suggestion of possible solutions
  • A commitment to excellent customer service

Apology letter for a mistake to boss

Disrespecting your boss can land you in trouble. Immediately you recognize you have made a mistake, write a letter seeking forgiveness. The act might avoid severe punishment or consequences taken on you. The letter should include;

  • A summary of the incident
  • Regret for the action
  • Seeking forgiveness
  • A promise never to repeat the mistake

Apology letter for a mistake to company

The working environment is devoid of mistakes. When an employee wrongs their company, it’s essential to seek forgiveness in time by writing an apology letter. The letter should address the following;

  • What transpired?
  • An apology to the right authority
  • Solution to the problem
  • A commitment that a repeat of the incident will not occur

Professional Apology Letter

Apology Letter for Mistake at Work

Apology Letter for Mistake to Client

Apology Letter for Mistake to Principal

Apology Letter for Mistake to Teacher

How to Request a Second Chance After Making a Mistake

They key to redeeming a mistake made, in any circumstance, is to acknowledge the mistake made and show remorse for the error. An apology letter should explain how or why the mistake was made, and how the offender intends to fix it. The writer should not make excuses, and keep the letter clear and sincere. Taking action to mend the issue right away, rather than waiting for a response, will show that the offender is genuine and will make the receiver more likely to accept the apology.

Being a great boss doesn’t mean you have to be perfect (even managers are human, after all), but it does mean you should own up to your mistakes and apologize when you’re in the wrong—even if it’s hard or embarrassing, or the mistake seems insignificant.

Whether you’ve called out an employee for missing a deadline that isn’t actually until next week, miscalculated a sales quote, or were uncharacteristically snappy during the weekly team call, a genuine “I’m sorry” will mean a lot to your employees. It’ll also make you a better, more respected leader in the process.

So it’s worth getting your apology right. An effective one will be sincere, direct, and free of justification—that means no making excuses! But the delivery may vary based on what you did and who was affected. Here’s how the best bosses apologize, depending on the severity of their mistakes.

When You Make a Minor Mistake: Send an Email

If you’ve given an employee inaccurate information, overlooked an important email, or failed to approve their vacation request on time, a brief acknowledgment of your error via email or Slack should suffice.

While the mistake may seem super minor—and you may be tempted to merely brush it off or ignore it—showing your employee that you care about getting things right (even the really small stuff) will mean a lot in building trust with them. It’ll also help to establish a larger culture of accountability. If the boss doesn’t have a problem saying “I’m sorry,” neither should the rest of the team.

What This Looks Like

I want to apologize for misplacing your expense report. That was my mistake. Thanks for following up with me on this—I’ve sent it off to finance for immediate approval.

I just realized that I asked you to schedule the new client meeting for the wrong date. That’s on me and I’m sorry. Would you mind rescheduling for next week? I know how hard it can be to get everyone’s calendars synced up, so let me know if you need any help.

When You Notice a Slip-Up in Real Time: Address it on the Spot

There will inevitably be times when your memory fails you or you say something that sounds a little harsh. When you catch yourself making a mistake in the moment, pause, take a breath, and acknowledge your error.

Catching these slip-ups as soon as they happen will help to keep them from turning into larger issues. Letting a harsh comment or an erroneous statement slide can breed resentment among your team, especially if you regularly ignore your mistakes. Your employees may start to wonder why you’re always so grumpy or why you don’t take time to read through their reports in advance.

So address the mistake, apologize with sincerity, and move on. And the last part is key. You don’t want to prolong the conversation by getting hung up on the details—that’s just unnecessary and uncomfortable for everyone involved.

If you’re concerned that your slip of the tongue might require a more thorough apology after the fact, you can always follow up directly with the person or people you offended (more on that below).

What This Sounds Like

“I apologize, I think I may have gotten that wrong. Can anyone confirm those dates for me?”

“I’m sorry, that didn’t come out the way I wanted it to. Let me try this again.”

When Your Actions Affect Someone Specifically: Give a Face-to-Face Apology

If you’ve hurt someone’s feelings, missed an important meeting with someone, or jumped to an unfair conclusion about a specific person, you’ll want to apologize in person. When in doubt, and even if you addressed it in the moment, it always helps to also meet with them one-on-one.

Send your employee a calendar invitation or stop by their desk as soon after the event as possible. This may be a brief exchange or could lead to a lengthier conversation—which is why it helps to throw it on the calendar or go into a private conference room in case you need to hash some stuff out. Either way, be prepared to listen and try not to get defensive if the person decides to animatedly express how your actions made them feel.

What This Sounds Like

Start by saying something like, “I wanted to talk to you about the sales meeting last week. I’m very sorry that I wasn’t there. I know you were counting on me.”

“Do you have a moment to chat about the Green project? It was wrong of me to assume that you hadn’t submitted your analysis on time, and I wanted to apologize.”

When You Mess Up in Front of Your Team: Bring it Up in Your Next Meeting

If you’ve mistakenly called out one or several of your employees in front of the whole team, you might want to address it the next time you’re all together. This doesn’t need to be a drawn-out discussion, but rather a quick acknowledgment before you dive into the business at hand.

You’ll, of course, want to address your error with the employee (or employees) in question first, and it wouldn’t hurt to ask them if they’d be all right with you correcting your mistake with the team. Most people will be happy to be publicly vindicated, but some may be more comfortable resolving things privately.

What This Sounds Like

“At last week’s meeting, I told Taylor that her numbers were inaccurate. That was my mistake, and I owe her an apology. I’m going to mess up sometimes, so when I do, I hope you all feel comfortable talking to me about it.”

“I realized that I wasn’t very patient on our team call yesterday afternoon, so I wanted to apologize. We should all do our best to communicate with each other constructively and respectfully—myself included. So, if I hurt anyone’s feelings, I’m sorry.”

I don’t know anyone who enjoys apologizing for their mistakes (nor do I know anyone who likes making mistakes, for that matter!) but saying you’re sorry when the moment calls for it will only boost your reputation as a great leader.

It’ll also make your team feel more comfortable coming to you with concerns as well as taking ownership of their own mistakes. When you provide a good example of making a fair and honest apology, your employees are more likely to replicate your actions—and this ultimately makes your team dynamic stronger.

In the span of five days, Saturday Night Live hired and fired comedian Shane Gillis after his use of sexist, homophobic, racist language— including comments that incorporated racial slurs and mocking a Chinese accent—all came to light on social media . In an initial statement, Gillis sort of tried to apologize. “I’m a comedian who pushes boundaries,” he wrote on Twitter . “I sometimes miss . My intention is never to hurt anyone but I am trying to be the best comedian I can be and sometimes that requires risks.”

After facing further criticism, and his eventual firing, Gillis doubled-down on his non-apology. “It feels ridiculous for comedians to be making public statements but here we are. I’m a comedian who was funny enough to get SNL. That can’t be taken away.” While some people, including Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang , have accepted Gillis’ statement, sometimes, a bad apology warrants correction.

When you receive a shitty apology from someone, whether it be for a small accident or the use of inappropriate language justified as “comedy,” it’s important to make your point clear—and realize that not everyone is deserving of forgiveness.

How to Apologize So People Forgive You

The best apologies come from a place of true self-reflection and understanding. You did something…

Point out the flaw in their apology

If you’ve just received an apology⁠, and still believe that your feelings haven’t been heard or acknowledged, let the person know exactly why you feel unresolved. Perhaps you felt like they qualified the apology (“I’m sorry, but..”) or that it felt mostly insincere (“I’m sorry that you felt this way”). If you hear any language like this—or a flimsy excuse for their behavior (“I’m a comedian who pushes boundaries”)—calmly state why their apology feels unsatisfactory and reiterate your point.

A genuine apology should feel straightforward and express that person’s responsibility for their actions and a commitment not to make the same mistake in the future. (“I fucked up” is a good start.) And be careful to listen for an explanation that doesn’t absolve them of responsibility. “I always explain when I apologize, how else is my apology supposed to be genuine?” one user on a recent Reddit thread writes. “I want you to understand why I did what I did, what led me to it, and why/how I understand that I was wrong. Intent matters with mistakes.”

You should never experience any doubt about its authenticity, either. Their tone during an apology should convey its sincerity; if it feels robotic, it’s probably not the apology you want. If it feels remorseful and expresses regret, perhaps it’s genuine, but only you can be the judge of that.

Allow them an opportunity to apologize again

Perhaps the person who owes you an apology wasn’t aware of how they hurt or offended you or they didn’t hear everything you expressed. Once you’ve reiterated your point, you’ll have to afford them the chance to actually apologize (and perhaps, better understand how and why you feel unresolved). Of course, some mistakes shouldn’t be that hard for a person to understand (ie. racist jokes), but if someone genuinely seems clueless about what they did wrong, give them a chance to learn, if you’re feeling generous.

On the flip side , keep in mind that you should also be provided time to consider forgiving them; it doesn’t always happen overnight or within a single phone call, so don’t allow someone to pressure you to resolve a dispute immediately.

How to Stop Writing ‘I’m Sorry’ So Often in Emails

Last week, I sent an email in which “Sorry about that!” was my automatic reply—I had forgotten…

You don’t have to forgive them

Let’s keep in mind one thing: Whether it’s a bad apology or a heartfelt, genuine one, you are not obliged to forgive anyone. If it’s a small accident, however, like a stranger bumped into you and spilled your coffee, a quick, sincere apology should suffice. “If someone goes through the trouble to actually, sincerely apologize, don’t be a douche about it forever and never forgive them,” u/elaphros writes . “Getting pissed off okay. Holding onto a grudge is not.” Forgiveness in this example should be immediate, or if they’re a total dick, a middle finger is effective, too.

On the other hand, you do not have to accept someone’s apology for a larger transgression, like a record of comedic jokes that use racial slurs or mock accents, for example. Y ou’re entitled to decide when something that bothers you crosses the line, particularly when you feel that a person’s apology stops short of real remorse (or that their history doesn’t provide enough evidence that they won’t make a similar mistake in the future). Does this mean they should be scorned from society forever? Probably not, but forgiveness should be earned. And it’s your decision when to give it.

Screwed up? Here’s how to have the best chance of making it better.


  • The Importance of Forgiveness
  • Find a therapist near me

How to apologize after a dispute

Despite the unrealistic expectations that many of us have for ourselves (and others), virtually all of us make mistakes—sometimes even big ones—with some frequency. In fact, if you are living a bold, creative life in which you are engaging with the world in a way that makes the most of your experiences, it’s hard to imagine how you could get away without making a blunder every once in a while. Mistakes don’t have to define you.

What’s key is handling your mistakes the right way.

When your mistakes affect others, it’s not enough just to accept that mistakes happen and move along. A good apology can go a long way toward not only reversing some of the damage that has been done, but also preventing further deterioration of a relationship. And although most of us have been taught to apologize from our earliest days, many of us lose sight of the point of an effective apology. Here are some key components to keep in mind.

1. Be clear about what you are apologizing for. If you know that your partner is mad at you, but you’re not sure why, you may be tempted to create a blanket apology just to try to move forward (“You’re obviously mad about something; I’m sorry for whatever I did”). This misses the chance to convey your understanding of what you did and how you hurt them—which misses the whole point of the apology. Similarly, “I’m sorry you’re upset” or “I’m sorry if you took it wrong” are not true apologies for your own behavior. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a place, but if a true apology for your specific actions is what’s called for, they are not an adequate substitute.

2. Don’t add conditions where conditions don’t belong. With apologies that are coming on the heels of a contentious situation, there is often the urge to protect yourself by limiting your apology within specific parameters or putting conditions on it. You may also be tempted to only give a piecemeal apology, and then see if the other person apologizes next. Be careful of this, and mindful of the risk of adding so many conditions to your apology that it ceases to mean anything anymore. “I’m sorry I said X, but if you hadn’t done Y, then I would have never been so upset” may be true, but it is also prone to escalating the conflict and making it sound like you’re not very sorry at all.

3. Your apology should stand on its own: Don’t apologize as a means to get what you want. An apology can be a useful tool—for connection, for repairing a relationship, and for understanding yourself and others better. It should not, however, be used as a tool to get something that you jeopardized by behaving badly. Apologies that have this “let me get it over with” flavor ring hollow and risk doing more harm than good. When you prepare to apologize, ask yourself: Is this apology something I feel is useful in its own right? Or am I viewing it as a means to an end to get what I want? Of course, you may very much hope for some positive effects of the apology. But those should come naturally, not be part of a quid pro quo of your having said sorry.

4. Know the difference between explaining and justifying. Explaining why you did something can sometimes help the other person understand what happened, but there’s a fine line between that and making excuses for your behavior. “I’m sorry I said that; I was angry, and I didn’t handle it well. I let my emotions get the best of me, and that is why I lashed out” is an infinitely more helpful opening to a true, vulnerable conversation than “I’m sorry I said that. You make me so mad sometimes that I just can’t help myself.”

5. Express remorse with empathy. An apology is about more than words—it is also about body language, tone of voice, etc.—yes, I am assuming that you are apologizing by the spoken word, not by text or email. A lot of times, the words may be there, but the empathy and remorse are not. Like an 8-year-old screaming “SOR-ry!” as she storms away on the playground, or a politician offering a canned, superficial press release about mistakes having been made, it becomes clear that there is no true remorse. If you don’t feel actual remorse within an apology, ask yourself why you’re doing it—and whether it’s just a charade that you are apologizing at all.

6. Have a plan for it to not happen again. I have worked with many people whose relationships are caught in a cycle of: hurt each other, apologize, hurt each other, apologize. Rinse and repeat. This is one of the main reasons even a “good” apology can fall on deaf ears. Words don’t mean nearly as much if the actions don’t follow. As the saying goes, “The best apology is changed behavior.” Even better, explain in your apology what you are going to do to try not to make the same mistake anew, to further give the other person some confidence that they won’t have to endure it all over again.

7. Be open to repairing and making further amends. Sometimes, words—even good ones—don’t feel quite sufficient to complete the process of repairing a relationship to the extent that it can begin to move forward. Maybe there is a corrective action you need to make—perhaps involving additional people—or logistical or even financial tolls that need to be paid. Don’t assume that saying sorry is enough when what your friend really could use is further help to mitigate the damage of a situation you had a hand in.

8. Listen. Ultimately, an apology shouldn’t just be about you. It should be about the feelings of the person you are apologizing to. After all, the fact that you are choosing to apologize makes it clear that you feel that you have wronged someone, at least on some level, so their feeling about it is just as important as yours. Don’t get so caught up in your own words that you forget to listen to theirs.

What makes a good apology to you? Let me know in the comments!

Conflict can make life miserable. Arguing can lead to hostility, hurt feelings and alienation. Disagreements between people are bound to happen from time to time. We all have opinions. Sometimes those opinions are not popular with family, friends or coworkers.

Have you ever stepped back from a disagreement and realized you were wrong? Were you too hard on your teenager? Did you make your wife feel insignificant by not listening to her opinion? Did you quarrel with your aging parent? Did you dispute a missed deadline with an employee and later discover that you were wrong about the date?

Admitting you are wrong is not an easy thing to do. Pride and self-esteem get in the way, making it difficult to offer a heartfelt apology. So, just how do we master the art of sincere apology after an argument? These tips can be your guide, and help you through the awkwardness of admitting you were wrong.

Arguments erupt quickly. If you’re challenged when you believe you’re right, you immediately become defensive. From that point on, you lose the ability to listen objectively to the other person’s point of view. It’s hard to approach your adversary after the cooling off period and admit you may have over-reacted, or even worse, that you may have been wrong. The first step when making an apology is acknowledging you were wrong. The second step is admitting it to yourself, and the other party.

Just Do It: Say You’re Sorry

When you hurt or humiliate someone with your words, express remorse for doing so. It doesn’t matter what the subject of the argument was; your words were damaging. Tell the person you were out of line, you are truly sorry for the way you handled yourself and for the way you made him or her feel.

Deliver the Apology in Person

Apologies are personal. If you owe someone an apology, do it in person. An email or text message is not appropriate or meaningful. A face-to-face meeting will let the person know you are sincere.

Resolve the Situation

Do whatever you can do to make things better. Start over, and listen to your teenager’s point of view. Tell your father that you value his and wisdom, and don’t be so quick to dismiss what he has to say. Let your employee know that you have updated your calendar, and you intend to pay closer attention to deadline details to avoid further misunderstandings. Remember to keep resolutions to avoid arguments in the future.

Saying Sorry for a Mistake

Losing your cool in a meeting. That Tweet you really shouldn’t have sent. Gossiping about a colleague. We all make mistakes, and sometimes hurt people through our behavior, words and actions – intentionally or by accident.

That’s why we all need to know how to apologize. It isn’t always easy to say you’re sorry, but it’s the best way to restore trust when you’ve done something wrong.

In this article, we’ll explore why apologies are so important, and look at how to say sorry for a mistake you’ve made.

Click here to view a transcript of this video.

What Is an Apology?

An apology is a statement with two key elements. It:

  1. Shows you feel remorse over your actions.
  2. Acknowledges the hurt that your actions caused to someone else.

Why Apologize?

Sincere apologies help to rebuild relationships with people you’ve hurt. That could be colleagues, clients, friends, or family.

By owning up to your mistake, you open a dialog with the other person. That way, you can reflect on and take responsibility for your actions. And they can process their feelings, restore their dignity, and avoid blaming themselves for what happened.

Apologizing can help you to act better in the future, maintain your self-respect, and restore your integrity in the eyes of others.

Your apology may not be accepted right away, but you’ll likely feel relieved that you’ve done the right thing and tried to make amends for your mistake.

Consequences of Not Apologizing

What happens if you don’t apologize for your mistakes? Well, you could damage your relationships, harm your reputation, and even limit your career opportunities. After all, no one wants to work with someone who can’t take responsibility for their own actions.

If you’re a manager or team leader refusing to apologize also negatively affects your team and sets a bad example. The resulting animosity, tension and pain can create a toxic work environment.

Why Are Apologies Difficult?

So, why do some people still avoid saying “I’m sorry”? First, apologizing takes courage. It puts you in a vulnerable position, leaving you open to attack or blame. Some people struggle to be this brave.

Or, you may be so full of shame and embarrassment over your actions that you can’t bring yourself to face the other person.

You may even feel under pressure to apologize when you’ve not done or said anything wrong. While unfair criticism can happen, it’s important to reflect on why the other person feels aggrieved. You may be missing something that does require an apology – or may lead to reconciliation.

How to Apologize Properly

Psychologists Steven Scher and John Darley present a four-step framework that you can use to apologize. [1]

Express Remorse for a Mistake

Promise That It Won’t Happen Again

How to Show Remorse for a Mistake

Every apology should start with two magic words: “I’m sorry,” or “I apologize.”

For example, you could say: “I’m sorry that I snapped at you yesterday. I feel embarrassed and ashamed by the way I acted.”

Your words need to be sincere and authentic . Be honest with yourself, and with the other person, about why you want to apologize. Never make an apology when you have ulterior motives, or if you see it as a means to an end.

An Example of Admitting Responsibility

When apologizing, it’s tempting to explain your actions. But these can be perceived as excuses and shifting blame.

For example: “I’m sorry that I snapped at you when you came into my office yesterday. I had a lot on my plate.” In this case, you excuse your behavior because of stress, and you imply that the other person was at fault because they bothered you on a busy day.

Instead, admit responsibility for your actions or behavior, and acknowledge what you did. You need to empathize with the person you wronged, and show that you understand how you made them feel.

It’s better to say, “I know that I hurt your feelings yesterday when I snapped at you. I’m sure this embarrassed you, especially since everyone else on the team was there. I was wrong to treat you like that.”

Words You Can Use to Make Amends

When you make amends, you take action to make the situation right. Here are two examples:

  • “If there’s anything that I can do to make this up to you, please just ask.”
  • “I realize that I was wrong to doubt your ability to chair our staff meeting. I’d like you to lead the team through tomorrow’s meeting to demonstrate your skills.”

Think carefully about this step. Token gestures or empty promises will do more harm than good. Because you feel guilty, you might also be tempted to give more than what’s appropriate – so be proportionate in what you offer.

How to Promise It Won’t Happen Again

Finally, reassure the other person that you’re going to change your behavior. This is vital for rebuilding trust and repairing the relationship.

You could say, “From now on, I’m going to manage my stress better, so that I don’t snap at you and the rest of the team. And, I want you to call me out if I do this again.”

Make sure that you honor this commitment to prove your trustworthiness and accountability.

Worried that your apology won’t come out right? Write down what you want to say, and then role-play the conversation with a friend. But don’t practice so much that your apology sounds staged or insincere.

How to Say Sorry in Writing

According to relationship psychologist Nicole McCance, it’s always better to apologize face-to-face than to say sorry in a letter or email.

Apologizing in person lets you show your sincerity with non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language . [2]

If this simply isn’t possible, here’s an example of how to write an apology:

I’m sorry for interrupting your presentation yesterday. I feel embarrassed by the way I acted – and the aggressive tone I used.

I know that I hurt your feelings. And I’m sure you must feel frustrated, especially as you had great points to share with the team. I was wrong to put my interests above yours and the wider team. From now on, I’m going to work on my self-control.

If there’s anything I can do to make this up to you, please do ask.
My sincere apologies,

Sincere Apologies May Take Time

Keep in mind that the other person might not be ready to forgive you for what happened. Give them time to heal.

For example, after you make your apology, you could say, “I know that you might not be ready to forgive me, and I understand how that feels. I simply wanted to say how sorry I am. I promise that it won’t happen again.”

Finding This Article Useful?

You can learn another 150 communication skills, like this, by joining the Mind Tools Club.

The questions I asked myself while feeling conflicted

How to apologize after a dispute

How to apologize after a dispute

S ince it’s pretty easy to reach me through social media, it’s rare that people use the contact form on my website to reach out.

I always get a little bit excited when I get one of those emails. I’ve had some interesting people contact me in the past about our similar interests, and I’m generally pretty happy to make a new connection.

I was surprised to find that the message was from an old boyfriend, someone who I had dated briefly when I was living in a different town a few years ago.

I had almost forgotten about the relationship, or, at least, it wasn’t something I thought about often. It wasn’t a super-serious relationship.

He was a guy I met in my community college ceramics class. We had flirted a bit at school and ended up dating for a couple of months. We were spending a decent amount of time together for a little while.

I remember him as being an okay guy. He definitely wasn’t mean or abusive in any way, but he had some personal issues with his health, self-esteem, and motivation; and I think this caused him to behave in a relatively self-centered and inconsiderate manner sometimes.

The details aren’t relevant here, but suffice to say that I lost interest in hanging out with him before too long. However, I had moved on easily from this relationship and wasn’t bothered by thoughts about it.

I was surprised to get his message, and I remember the line that stood out to me the most:

It’s rare that you get to hear an ex say something approaching “It’s all my fault,” and of course, it almost never is all anyone’s fault in a relationship.

Nonetheless, that’s a sentence that feels pretty good to read. I could hear my ego purring like a cat.

Do I feel vindicated?

When I first started reading the email and understood what it was about, I had a moment of feeling really awesome.

It was him and not me. I was the great one all along, and any doubts I ever had about that can die now.

That feeling passed really quickly.

Then, I started to second guess myself, and it was only the beginning of an unexpected emotional roller coaster.

I’ m sure I probably annoyed him at times just as much as he annoyed me. We just weren’t right for each other– we were in different stages of development in many areas of our lives, and I don’t think it could have been long-term relationship regardless of anything inconsiderate that he did.

After feeling victorious, I started feeling sorry for him– but my feelings took a different turn after I thought about it for a while.

Is it too little, too late?

Hold on a second, who is this guy to apologize, years after the fact, anyway?

If he was going to say he was sorry, shouldn’t he have done it when it mattered?

Was this a real apology, or some kind of manipulation?

Isn’t changed behavior the best apology?

Maybe this guy had gotten over some of his issues in the last few years. Maybe he had grown and changed and become a better person.

Maybe this apology was a sign that he had matured– but we weren’t in touch anymore, and I wasn’t getting treated better as a result of that maturity.

How did I know that his words weren’t empty if I wasn’t around to witness his actions?

Is his apology about my happiness or his guilt?

Was he emailing me because he wanted me to feel better, or because he was hoping to get an email in return, so he could stop feeling bad?

Was he concerned about how his actions had affected me, or how he might appear to others or to himself?

Is my forgiveness about his guilt, my happiness, or my own ego?

If I write him back, am I doing it out of compassion for him, wanting to absolve him of his guilt; or am I doing it for me?

Am I doing it for me because I want to move on without harboring any resentment, or am I doing it because I want to feel like a “good” person who arrogantly deigns to forgive?

Should I take what I can get?

Whether his apology came from a place of authenticity or not, it’s something, isn’t it?

Plenty of people get treated way worse in relationships and don’t ever get an apology.

Should I strive to feel purely grateful, instead of questioning it?

I’ m still not sure how I feel about my ex’s apology, but I feel happy that I was able to notice all of my emotions about it. I’m also proud of myself for sitting with those emotions for a few days before doing anything about them.

After some thought, I decided not to write my ex back, and to treat the apology with a little bit of stoicism.

“What really frightens and dismays us is not external events themselves, but the way in which we think about them. It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance.”
― Epictetus

Relationships are complicated.

“Right” and “wrong” in a given situation is not always clear. It can be confusing deciding how you feel or what you want to do when it comes to your close relationships.

I feel like the best thing we can do when we feel overwhelmed is to slow down and detach ourselves from the situation. If we take a step back, it’s easier to remain present and aware of what we’re thinking, how we’re feeling, and how we’re deciding to react.

Not everything has to matter. You get to decide whether something is a meaningful event in your life, and how much of your mental energy you want to let it consume.

My ex’s apology made me realize that sometimes it’s okay to do nothing.

  1. How to Apologize to My Boyfriend After Messing Up
  2. How to Apologize to Your Boyfriend After Taking Him for Granted
  3. How to Get My Boyfriend to Forgive Me After a Falling Out
  4. Can Friends Repair a Friendship When One Feels Betrayed?
  5. How to Make Amends for Mistakes

How to apologize after a dispute

It’s only human to make mistakes. If your behavior has hurt another person, the first step toward making amends is to offer a genuine apology. An apology should express regret, accept blame and promise redress, according to Beverly Engel in the UMass Amherst Family Business Center article, “How to Give a Meaningful Apology.” If you come across as desperate, it won’t make the other person more likely to forgive you, so bear this in mind when saying sorry.

Swallow Your Pride

Don’t put off apologizing because you are worried it makes you look desperate, or is akin to an admission that you are a bad person, says Guy Winch, a licensed psychologist, in the article, “Why Some People Refuse to Apologize” in “Psychology Today.” Saying sorry — and really meaning it — can be awkward and difficult, and it involves letting down your defenses and possibly releasing a range of pent-up emotions. It can also be extremely therapeutic, however, and may lead to stronger, closer personal relationships, says Winch.

Do It in Person

For your apology to come across as genuine, do it face to face, says advice columnist Slash Coleman in the article, “10 Ways to Apologize Appropriately” in “Psychology Today.” If you are tempted to do it by text, email or through social media — don’t. If you can’t apologize in person, a phone call is the next best thing, says Coleman.

Express Regret

Your apology should include a statement that you regret having hurt the other person. For the apology to appear genuine, it must be accompanied by empathy. Without empathy, your apology will come across as hollow, warns Engel. Remember, the purpose of your apology is to acknowledge the damage you caused. To avoid coming across as desperate, don’t labor the point. Keep it simple, but warm. For example, say, “I’m so sorry I hurt your feelings” or “I am truly sorry for the pain I have caused you.”

Take Responsibility

Apologizing involves taking responsibility for what you did. Say something like, “I’m sorry I said those things to you. I know they were hurtful” or “I’m sorry I lied to you. You have every right to be mad with me.” Resist the temptation to make excuses for your actions, or to blame someone else for what happened. If you try to justify what you did, you may come across as simply desperate for forgiveness — rather than being genuinely sorry. The only motive behind your apology should be that you want to repair the damage you have caused, say relationship counselors Linda Bloom and Charlie Bloom in the article, “Read This Before You Apologize to Her (or Him)” in “Psychology Today.”

Promise Remedy

A crucial part of an apology is an assurance that you have learnt from your mistake and won’t let it happen again. The person you are apologizing to needs to believe that you won’t repeat the behavior that lead to the hurt, says Engel. You may say something like, “I’m so sorry for cheating on you. I’m going to seek professional help to work through my commitment issues” or “I’m sorry I forgot your birthday. I promise it won’t happen again.”

Back Off

After you have made your apology, give the other person time to digest it. Don’t expect immediate forgiveness or reassurance that everything will go back to how it once was, warns relationship counselor Elly Prior in the article, “How to Apologize Gracefully” on her website, Professional Counselling. If you receive a negative reaction to your apology, remove yourself from the situation and keep your distance for a while. The other person may need space to think things through. Never beg for forgiveness, as this smacks of desperation, is likely to cause irritation, and may put pressure on the other person, say Linda and Charlie Bloom. After a few days, consider sending a polite, friendly email or a bunch of flowers with a card saying, “I’m sorry” to back up your initial apology, and to show that you mean it.