Since we’re all flawed human beings, it’s inevitable that we’ll do things to hurt and upset one another from time to time. It’s (usually) never intentional, but it happens. However, it can be hard to extend a bit of grace when someone screws you over, no matter how much you want to forgive. Here’s how to accept an apology when it’s warranted, as well as a few pointers on what not to do during the conversation.
Are there any occasions when “I’m sorry” isn’t enough?
- They’re clearly being insincere. If the person who is apologizing doesn’t seem truly remorseful or is only apologizing to make themselves feel better, it may be difficult to accept their apology. You can usually tell if someone’s being genuine by the way they speak. If they’re dismissive of their own “I’m sorry” or are skirting around the words, it’s probably because they don’t mean them and don’t really want to be saying them. In this case, feel free not to accept.
- They keep apologizing for the same thing but their behavior never changes. If the same behavior continues to occur even after an apology has been made, that’s a no-go. Generally speaking, people make a mistake and learn from it. If, however, they turn into repeat offenders, don’t be so quick to let it slide.
- They refuse to take responsibility for their actions. If the person who is apologizing does not take responsibility for their actions or does not show any effort to make amends, don’t feel pressured to accept their apology. Without accountability, their apology can never be genuine. Do they even know what they’re “sorry” about?
- You haven’t worked through what they did yet. If there are underlying issues in the relationship that have not been addressed, it may be necessary to address these before accepting an apology. You can’t just brush things under the carpet with an apology and move on.
- What they did was unforgivable. If the person’s actions have violated your personal boundaries, it may be necessary to have a conversation about those boundaries and work towards resolving the situation before accepting an apology. However, if it was something really bad, you might never accept it at all.
How to accept an apology
- Listen to what they have to say. Take the time to truly listen to the person who is apologizing. Allow them to express their remorse and understand the reasons for their apology. Don’t cut them off or interject. You’ll get your time to speak, so respect theirs. They at least deserve for you to hear them out.
- Acknowledge their apology. A simple “thank you for apologizing” can go a long way in showing that you have heard them and appreciate their effort to make amends. It also shows you’ve been listening to what they’re saying and appreciate that they’re trying to take responsibility for what they did.
- Consider your own feelings. Before accepting an apology, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on your own emotions. Are you still feeling hurt or angry? If so, it may take some time for you to fully accept the apology. Just because they’re sorry doesn’t mean you’re obligated to accept that. What you want matters too.
- Focus on the future. Once an apology has been accepted, it’s important to shift your focus to the future and work towards repairing the relationship. Don’t keep harping on what went wrong or continue to bring it up. If you truly forgive them, it needs to be water under the bridge.
- Be open to reconciliation. If the person who apologized is sincere and willing to work towards rebuilding the relationship, be open to the possibility. After all, everyone screws up now and again. If they genuinely feel remorseful and vow not to do it again, give them the benefit of the doubt.
- Practice empathy. Try to see the situation from the other person’s perspective. Understanding their perspective can help you to accept their apology and move forward. It doesn’t make what they did okay, but it does provide a bit of context.
- Take things slowly. After an apology, it’s important to take things slow and let the relationship heal and grow naturally. You don’t have to go back to the way things were today or even next week. Take the time you need. They should be willing to respect that.
What you shouldn’t do when accepting an apology
- Don’t dismiss the apology. Even if the apology is not exactly what you were hoping for, it’s important to acknowledge the effort that was made to apologize and show appreciation for it. Don’t make them feel silly for trying to say sorry, or even for what they did wrong. Avoid the urge to be petty.
- Don’t bring up stuff that happened in the past. When accepting an apology, it’s best to focus on the present and the future. Unless they’re apologizing for the same thing they’ve done before, it’s not the time to call up all their past mistakes. This will just make them feel bad. It doesn’t help your relationship, either.
- Don’t hold a grudge. Holding onto anger and resentment can prevent you from fully accepting an apology and moving forward in the relationship. If you’re going to forgive someone, you don’t get to secretly hold a grudge that you’ll use to your advantage down the line. Be like Elsa and let it go!
- Don’t act impulsively. Accepting an apology is a process and it’s important to take the time to reflect on your own emotions and work towards a resolution that is best for you. Don’t feel pressured to accept right away or to keep the peace/avoid conflict. Take the time you need.
- Don’t dismiss your own feelings. Similarly, just because someone has apologized, it doesn’t mean that your own emotions are automatically resolved. Take the time to process your feelings and work towards a resolution that is best for you. If that means not having them in your life anymore, that’s fair enough.
- Don’t ignore red flags. If the person who is apologizing has a history of not following through on their promises or engaging in similar behavior in the past, it may be necessary to be cautious in accepting their apology.
- Don’t be afraid to seek help. If the situation is particularly complicated or you are struggling to work through your emotions, it may be helpful to seek support from a trusted friend, family member, or professional.