How to Give a Meaningful Apology When You Know You're in the Wrong

Apologies can be tricky.

There are times when you don't feel like you should be apologizing in the first place, or you're just really bad at being vulnerable or properly articulating your thoughts.

But in the cases where you're well aware you're entirely at fault, it's imperative that you make sure the person you offended knows you're sorry—and fast.

Keep reading for our foolproof method to giving a meaningful apology when you know you're in the wrong:


1. Acknowledge What You Did, and Take Full Responsibility for Your Actions

Your first foray into breaking the ice between you and someone you hurt is  by not beating around the bush and straight-up addressing the issue at hand. Yes, it's awkward, but this initial stage will soon be over and you can delve into the actual apology.

Facing the incident head-on (and not making excuses) shows you're mature enough to take matters into your own hands and own up to your faults. A simple, "I want to talk to you about [insert incident]. I made a big mistake" will do the trick.

Veronica talking angrily to Betty

(Riverdale via The CW)



2. Explain Why You Did It

Going back to our post from last week about rebuilding trust in a friendship, every action has a motive. It can be something as mindless as you totally forgot you weren't supposed to say or do something—or your actions could have been influenced by something more serious, like jealousy or resentment.

Regardless of the cause, by opening up about whatever it is, you and the person you hurt can hopefully talk through the issue and prevent it from leading to another painful situation in the future.



3. Explain Why You Regret Doing It

If you're offering up an apology because you actually value your relationship (however big or small) with this person and care about earning their respect, then you should have a well-thought-out reason why you regret your actions, and it should be much deeper than "I don't want drama" or "I don't want you not to trust me."

Think about what your actions may have done to this person. Did your actions affect this person's relationship with someone else? Did your actions become fodder for the high school rumor mill? Acknowledge that you exhibited poor decision-making skills, and that you feel really bad about hurting this person.

Three friends talking through hurt feelings

(via Shutterstock)



4. Acknowledge How Your Actions Must Have Made the Person Feel

Empathy is crucial in any apology. Instead of throwing out a simple, "I'm sorry, it won't happen again," actually take into consideration what the person is probably experiencing right now, due to your mishap. By relating to them about a time when you were totally hurt, betrayed or lied to, you're letting them know you understand it doesn't feel good.

Tell them you'll do anything you can to alleviate the pain and soften the intensity of the situation. Don't be afraid to use the word "feel" and "feelings," as you want the person to know you care about their emotional state.



5. Explain What You Learned From Your Mistake

Perhaps you initially didn't think what you did was that big of a deal, or maybe you did something based on peer pressure. Whatever the case may be, you obviously learned something from your mistake.

Whether you learned the value of trust, or you now know not to minimize the impact your actions may have on someone, you should absolutely make a point to express that you walked away with a real lesson from the negative experience.

Friends: Rachel and Ross pointing at each other

(Friends via NBC)



6. Explain What You'll Do Differently Moving Forward

For a person to truly accept your apology and move on, they have to be sure there won't be a repeat of your actions in the future. Assure them that, based on what you learned (see above) from your mistake, you plan to go about things differently if faced with a similar situation moving forward.

Whether it's confronting the person directly if you have an issue, or not giving into gossip, you need to walk away with the hurt person feeling confident that what you did was a case of human error and that nothing like this will occur again.


There's a chance your mishap may put some temporary distance between you and the person you hurt. If it's a very close friend of yours, HERE's how you can benefit from spending time apart from your BFF.