The Lost Art of Apologies

Before we begin, I’d like to start with a couple of questions. How many of you have been on the receiving hand of a crap apology?


And how many of you have given a crap apology?

Also me.

Also me.

I think that part of what subjects us to this wave of crap apology is the fact that we all have devices attached to us so frequently, we think that to apologize is to shoot off a quick “sorry,” and move on. We think of people, and subsequently their feelings, as items on a digital checklist that we address on our own time and keep going. How often, though, have you moved on from something that needed more than a quick text? How many times would you have been more accepting of something if there was actual responsibility taken from the person who hurt you, instead of a “sorry your feelings were hurt,” or “sorry you got offended”? Why do people think that this wave of “I ain’t sorry” is really helping us grow in our relationships? Now, there are some reasons that you shouldn’t feel compelled to apologize for. I’m working on a few of the ones my buddy Alise mentions in her post as we speak. There are some things that we shouldn’t apologize for. For the ones we should, meaning you were an incorrigible douchenugget or flubbed so hard nobody wants to even fine you, this is where this particular post comes in.

If we really dig in and get honest with ourselves, I’d bet that we find that being on the receiving end of a terrible apology has colored how we interact with that person from that point forward. Nobody wants to bare it all and put a little shred of vulnerability on the table and expose what lies beneath… even if it does lead to a healthier reconciliation. We’re all protected like the suits of armor at Hogwarts, except there’s no life or death battle looming, especially not against Tom Riddle. He gone.

All geared up with nowhere to go.

All geared up with nowhere to go.

How, then, do we begin to make apologies that matter and save relationships that matter to us? Because I like a good mnemonic (although I have trouble saying the word), we’ll use the word “art” to remember the steps. So, to make apologies that count, one must:

  • Acknowledge what you have done, and how your actions affected the offended party. This is not a good time to pull the “yeah, I did wrong but you/him/her/the devil made me do it.” Nope. Own your part in this mess, and own it wholly. If you need some time to reflect and think about what you did and how the other person could have been hurt by your actions, take some time. If you’re drawing blanks, ask them how it affected them specifically. Make an effort to actually call or see the person instead of text them. I find in moments like this, where you can be proactive instead of reactive, the best instances of healing develop. After you have acknowledged your actions and the hurt they have caused, you can then…
  • Resolve to do better. I think this is where so many apologies fall short. You can’t just say “sorry” (even if you are) and leave it at that. The next step is vocalizing what you plan to do to ensure no repeat performances. Acknowledge it, then create a course of action to prevent it. What do you need to be more mindful of going forward? What obstacles do you need to remove that will prevent you from being a less trash individual? This is where you create a plan and share it. Sharing it helps keep you accountable. After all of that, we get to the last step, which is…
  • Thankfulness. Practice it. The person you hurt is under no obligation to hear you out, so recognize that first. Thank them for their time, and if they do accept your apology (because I can’t and won’t guarantee that they will), thank them for trusting you again. It’s important to realize here that an accepted apology is not a reset button. Depending on the level of offense, a “sorry” does not give you a get-back-in-their-best-graces free card. You’re going to have to work to restore this thing. Going forward, remember this moment so that you can be motivated to not do whatever you did again. Perhaps a small gift (if your person is a gifts/edible arrangements type of person) will get the message across at this point. We must remember to be grateful for people that let us back in after we’ve messed up, no matter the level of our mistake. Use this opportunity as your launching pad to being a better you.

Got it? Review time.


“Hey, I’m sorry I did the thing that made you feel like I wasn’t as great of a human being as you’ve previously thought. I totally mishandled myself in the situation, and my carelessness/selfishness/obliviousness let you down at a time that you needed me. Going forward, I would like to not let these things fall off the radar, so I’ll try and use my calendar more. Feel free to send me things I can plug in my phone too, as little reminders. To make up for messing this thing up, here’s *thing*, and again… I’ll do better.”

There it is. Go forth and be trash no more.  Here’s a handy pocket reference, drawn from the labor of my own hands because I was over photoshop and this was faster.

Drawn by me.

And to think I almost called this post “The Anatomy of an Apology.” Hmmph.

If you have any other advice, thoughts, or questions, leave them in the comments. 

Class dismissed,

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