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Apologize Like You Mean It

by Aaron Crowder on in personal professional advice

Today is Father’s day, a day where we celebrate the dad’s in our lives. Rather than write an appreciation post though, I wanted to write about something that men everywhere can do better. That’s why I decided to write about apologizing. It’s something that few men do, and even fewer do well.

Even worse I’ve seen so many instances lately where men are directly asked to apologize and refuse to. But the point of this post isn’t to call anyone out. It’s meant to educate everyone on what a good apology looks like. This is as much for me as anyone. I have to apologize all the time!

Acknowledge / Admit

An apology isn’t an apology unless you acknowledge and admit your wrongdoing. I’ve seen too many people who simply say “I’m sorry” without owning the thing they did wrong in the first place. Without this step your apology is an empty one.

What it looks like

I did the thing that was wrong.

It really is that simple! Just own the thing you did wrong.

Saying you’re sorry

This one seems like an obvious step but I still see people messing it up. The most common mistake I see people make is saying things like

  • I’m sorry I upset you…
  • Sorry you feel that way…
  • I’m sorry, but…

These types of phrases put the blame on the victim. At best it makes your apology disingenuous, and at worst downright abusive. A simple “I’m sorry” is a lot better than any of the above.

What it looks like

I did the thing that is bad and I am deeply sorry.

Here I’ve combined the previous step with this one. It’s simple but these two things together demonstrate both remorse and awareness. Both of those components are integral to a true apology.

Making it Right

Have you ever heard the phrase “actions speak louder than words”? This is that step! An apology without a clear statement of what you’re going to do to make amends and avoid repeating your mistake is just words.

Sometimes restitution and your plan to improve are one in the same, but other times you may have hurt a specific person directly and need to do something for them. The restitution will be unique to every situation. Take some time to think of something that will be both meaningful and helpful for those you hurt.

Your plan to improve can be as simple as stating that you will do better next time, but you should be as specific as possible. If you accidentally used a phrase demeaning to a group of people (like I recently did) part of your plan can be that you’ll do some research about the affected group in order to better understand their struggle.

What it looks like

I’m going to be donating to a non-profit benefiting group. I will also be reading these articles to better understand and ensure I don’t repeat this mistake in the future.

In just two sentences you’ve outlined your plan for restitution and improvement. It’s simple and yet probably one of the most important parts of an apology. It’s also almost the hardest part… almost.

Asking for Forgiveness

This last step is one of vulnerability. You may or may not receive forgiveness, and you have to accept that. But asking for it opens you up to the people you’ve hurt. You have to be careful here though, because the last thing you want to do is make someone feel like they have to accept your apology.

Phrasing helps a lot here. Be careful with how you ask for forgiveness to ensure it doesn’t come off as a demand. Your request should be without the expectation that you’ll be forgiven. You don’t want to compound your mistake with another one.

What it looks like

I hope that someday I can be forgiven.

Keeping it simple is your best option here. Express the hope that you might be forgiven, but don’t put any pressure on the other party to capitulate.


If you take anything away from this post I hope it’s that you should keep your apology simple. Don’t overcomplicate it with flowery language. Don’t make it longer than is absolutely necessary. Get straight to the point and make your apology count.

For the father’s reading this: demonstrating skill with apologies might be one of the most important things you teach your kids. They will forever benefit from your example. Don’t hesitate to apologize to your kids or in front of them so that they can learn these skills!

If, after reading this, you think I’m an expert at apologizing then I want to tell you that is not the case. I have to apologize frequently, and I often get it wrong. But the point isn’t too be perfect, the point is to be genuine and try. If you mess up your apology there is no shame in apologizing again!