Is it too late now to say sorry?

Saying i'm sorry

Is it too late now to say sorry?

Fun fact – I am not only a ‘Belieber’, I am also a ‘Believer’ – a believer that there are two types of people in this world: those who know how to properly apologize and those who do not. What many people don’t know, or don’t care to pay attention to, is that there is such a thing as over-apologizing and under-apologizing.

How to apologizeHow many of us have a friend (or are that friend) who is running late for dinner and sends a million texts in succession. “I’m sorry be there soon!” “In so much traffic, I’m sooo sorry.” “Sorry, 5 more mins. Go ahead and sit down without me.” The friend then arrives at the table and continues to apologize for their lateness.

And then you have the under apologizers; the ones who show up 20 minutes late to dinner as if nothing ever happened… Every. Time.

As Dr. Jennifer Hartstein (2018) states “People often apologize to avoid dealing with feeling vulnerable or the negative feelings of others.” When we apologize, we are so focused on how we are feeling that we tend to look past how the receiver of the apology may actually feel. Oh the irony…

How to Give a Genuine Apology

Below are some tips for how to give an effective, genuine and concise apology:

  1. Be Mindful: What are you apologizing for? Are you sorry because you’ve wronged someone? Are you sorry because someone is making you feel like you should be sorry? Being in touch with yourself and being mindful of why you feel the need, or not, to apologize can help you formulate an appropriate response.
  2. Take a pause: Like any time we speak, it can be helpful to take a momentary pause and think before the words come out of our mouth. By taking a moment, we are often more in touch with the words we are using. Think… does this moment warrant an apology? If the answer is yes, how can you express your remorse without becoming overly vulnerable and/or annoying to others. If the answer is no, stick with your gut. Not every uncomfortable moment or unfortunate situation means you must be sorry.
  3. Be concise in your response: Here’s the thing, when we over-apologize (saying I’m sorry on repeat), our apology becomes watered down and not to mention, completely annoying to others. We can often convey a sincere apology in just a few words, whereas many of us resort to sentences or even paragraphs detailing every moment that led us up to this apology. Stick to the facts, keep it short and sweet, and move on.
  4. Don’t make assumptions: When someone tells us news that we ourselves view as negative we immediately apologize. For example, “I’m sorry you lost your job,” or “I’m sorry you’re relocating to another state.” We must not impose our views on others, but rather ask how they’re feeling about it. Perhaps the person had been miserable in their job but couldn’t find a reason to leave, maybe a change in location is exactly what this person needed right now. Don’t assume you know!


Authored by: Tracey Weiss