Life Skills: How To Say ‘I’m Sorry’ — And Mean It

By Jessica Reynolds
Chicago Tribune.

You messed up. Maybe you made your spouse cry, forgot about your kid’s basketball game, got caught in a lie, or worse. An apology is in order. What should you say?

Our apologies are usually “woefully inadequate … because we have a fundamental misunderstanding about their purpose,” said Guy Winch, psychologist and author of “Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure and Other Everyday Hurts.”

“Most apologies tend to be excuses or justifications that neglect to address the feelings of the person to whom we’re apologizing.”

Before you start to craft your apology, remember the goal is to make the other person feel better, not yourself.

“We will only feel better, and less guilty, if they feel better and forgive us,” Winch said.

Sincerity will be at the root of any good apology, said Toni Coleman, a psychotherapist and relationship coach based in McLean, Va. “Too often apologies are delivered with a ‘but’ in an attempt at justification or rationalization,” she said.

But it was just one time. But I had a miserable day at work. But I didn’t think …

The moment you ask for forgiveness isn’t the time to make excuses, said Jonathan Alpert, psychotherapist and author of “Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days” (Center Street). It’s when you should show true remorse, Coleman said, and are open to listening to your loved ones explain how you’ve hurt them.


“If apologies are an art form, most of us can barely finger-paint,” Winch said. Admitting fallibility might be the first hurdle for many on the path to a good apology, but even those willing to own up to their mistakes should know how to do it effectively.

Winch said the ideal apology will include five specific ingredients:

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