Don't Be a Jerk! The Big Dos and Don'ts of Apologizing

We all screw up sometimes, and that's OK. The best thing to do when you make a mistake is to own up to it and make amends wherever they need to be made. There are also a few things NOT to do — unless you want to add insult to injury and make things worse! Below are some helpful tips to try when saying you're sorry.


  • Plan what you want to say. You should go into the apology with a good idea of what you want to say, but avoid making it sound too rehearsed. If you're clear ahead of time about what you did wrong and why, it will make it easier to discuss once you're having the actual conversation.
  • Figure out why you did whatever it is you're apologizing for. If you did something wrong, you shouldn't beat yourself up about it, but you also shouldn't let yourself completely off the hook. Own the mistake, and do better to prevent it from happening again.
  • Say you're sorry in person. If you're able to, make your apology in person instead of over the phone or online. It's always best to look someone in the eye when having a serious conversation, that way they can tell that what you're saying is genuine.
  • Listen to their side. Open up a dialogue about why the other person is upset, and actively listen to their side of things. Let them know that you're making an effort to understand where they are coming from.
  • Try to help them understand where you were coming from. Once you figure out why you made the mistake, try to explain the scenario from your perspective, and always be honest.
  • Keep your word. Lay out ways you plan on fixing the problem and making amends, and prove your sincerity by sticking to what you say. Actions speak louder than words, after all!
  • Add a little sugar on top. It doesn't hurt to make your apology a little bit bigger than the crime was. Make sure that you aren't laying it on so thick that it sounds fake, but you can emphasize your admission of guilt, as well as your feelings of regret.


  • Blame them for how they feel. Don't say "I'm sorry that you feel that way" or anything along those lines, because what they will really hear is, "I don't think that what I did was wrong, but I want you to stop being mad at me."
  • Say "but." Ever. No ifs, buts, or althoughs!
  • Use the past against them. Even if the person has made a mistake in the past, no matter how similar, you should never throw that back in their face. It's counterproductive and guaranteed to cause more tension. Focus on the now, because that's what really matters.
  • Make excuses. There's a difference between actually stepping back, analyzing your actions, and explaining them, and scrounging up as many halfhearted excuses that you can find in hopes of wiggling your way out of the conflict.
  • Get defensive or expect immediate forgiveness. Just because you apologize doesn't necessarily mean that the other person is going to immediately forgive you or stop being upset. They may need some time to get past the issue, so give it to them!
  • Try to make light of things. When you're uncomfortable, it's easy to try different methods of dealing with tension, but joking around and trying to be funny is probably not your best bet. This may make it seem like you are trivializing the situation, which can put you right back at square one if taken the wrong way.

Always say sorry like you mean it, and take responsibility for your mistake!