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The lost art of apologizing

In my previous post, I mentioned I was going to write about apologies.

They belong to the world of communication and I often find them to be underrated.

I’m not sure why. Perhaps it feels like that because we’re always taught to be polite: saying thanks or sorry often feels like duty, an immediate response, not something that comes from our hearts, nor something we truly mean.

We could joke about Canadians but there’s no need for that.

My intention was not to talk about social norms anyway.


I noticed how often the act of apologizing is misused, how often the word sorry somehow lost its meaning. How often does it happen to hear I’m sorry but?

Being sorry is an emotional state. It means being sad, or regretful.

Sure, we may sometimes say I’m hungry but or I’m happy but. However, that but decreases the intensity of the first statement; it moves the attention from the emotional state to whatever contrasts it, almost invalidating it.

So, if we are truly sorry, it’s better to emphasize by explaining why, not concealing the emotion behind buts. The hurt person only wants to make sure we regret what we did, we can’t prove that if we keep on being stubborn about justifying our bad deed or diminishing their feelings.

There could be a right time for that, which is certainly not at the very beginning of an apology.


While apologizing is hard on its own, a more serious issue arises when a person is unable to regret. Perhaps they believe they did nothing wrong, or they think the hurt one was overly sensitive and had an exaggerated reaction.

(Un)fortunately, this is not what apologizing is about.

The way we act about our emotions might come with judgement, but emotions on their own can’t really be right or wrong.

The apology should, first of all, be a way to show empathy.

Then apologizing has little to do with asking for forgiveness. Again, it’s meant to express regret, not to fix the situation.


What about the other side? Whenever we get hurt, I believe it’s important to express how we feel first, instead of accusing the other person right away.


1. I was hurt by your words.

2. You offended me.

See, the first phrase is more likely to evoke empathy, therefore an apology.

  • Question /

    Do you find it difficult to apologize?

    • Yes
    • No
    • Sometimes
  • Question /

    Do you tend to expect to be forgiven after you apologize?

    • Yes
    • No
    • Sometimes
  • Question /

    Does knowing that those who hurt you regret what they did makes you feel better?

    • Yes
    • No
  • Question /

    The way we act about our emotions might come with judgement, but emotions on their own can’t really be right or wrong. – Do you agree with this?

    • Yes
    • No
    • Not entirely


What do you think?

21 points

Written by sabtraversa

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  1. Personally I am of the opinion that things happen. If you take responsibility and apologize, I will happily forgive. If it happens a second time, I will not forget, when you apologize I will remember the initial and the second misstep. It goes on and on. When we get to the 3rd time, i will distance myself. I don’t have time for 3rd, 4th and so on apologies.

    • Exactly. I wanted to include this aspect as well, despite it’s more about forgiving than just apologizing. I think someone can be truly sorry but still stubborn with their negative behavior. I don’t think it nullifies what they’re feeling (being sorry), but we’re free to either forgive or go away. After all, forgiveness (trust) is something you earn, not something you’re owed.

  2. Relationships go 2 ways and quite often some people think they have to be right all the time.
    However, I don’t think anyone gets away scot free when they offend others if they do it deliberately.

    Culture differences often cause an offence. In New Zealand we look at people directly at the eyes while some other nations never make eye contact.

    • Yes, there can’t be dialogue if we don’t make an effort in listening and comprehending what the other person has to say, it takes modesty as well as empathy.
      That’s also true, about cultural differences. It’s very important to understand that some people’s backgrounds could differ from ours and tell if something is “bothersome” right away, as well as learning what annoys, or worse, offends the person we’re talking to. 🙂
      Some things just can’t be differentiated into right and wrong, there are plenty of grey zones and subjective views.

  3. Whenever I have had to apologize |I have done it graciously and really meant it. |If my apology has been accepted then everything goes on as usual and if rejected which only happened once then I just go my own way and never speak to that person again

    • Yep, I know. I’m still surprised by how many times people blurt out lots of words and phrases but the magic one “I’m sorry”. Sometimes that’s all I want to hear, and almost never get it.
      I wonder if it is pride or else, but it’s crazy. 😅
      I never expect to be forgiven after I apologize, but having my words or feelings judged or questioned is definitely not good.

      • No, I didn’t mean that but saying our feelings… – sometimes it does not work… An apology is also hard to get but it is not necessary if you ask me when people understand each other and do it differently…
        Could be pride…

        I do expect because I’m doing it to continue being good with that person…

        • I see. There could be a time for apologizing but if doesn’t come and things are okay, it feels like it’s no longer needed. It’s just the heat of the moment, then it depends on whether you hold grudges or not. 😅
          And because some people may hold grudges or it takes them time to trust me again, I can’t really expect forgiveness, though I hope to be given a second chance. I’m just fine with letting them know I’m sorry, then it’s up to them. 🙂

          • Something like that… Or some other things are said and done instead… I also think we should get them sometimes and I mind when not… I find it selfish 😐

            I actually don’t understand it now… It is actually about being unconditional sometimes and sometimes not – depending on the person or the situation…
            Ok, I understand now… You can, of course… It actually all about being compatible or not… I don’t believe in “apology” I believe in characters and being unconditional.. So it mostly depends on that I think…

        • Maybe I understood. That’s also true, especially when we’re able to choose whom to spend our time with. In other circumstances, we have to adapt to the people around us, like at work, and incompatible relationships are forced though it’s unhealthy.

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