What is the right way versus the wrong way to apologize? Many times it is the words that we use.

If you want to sincerely apologize to someone whom you have either possibly offended or hurt, or because of a mistake you have made, the words you choose are important. Your words should strengthen your apology rather than weaken it. Because if you unknowingly or out of habit use words that weaken your apology, the other person may wonder if you are sincere. Have you ever heard of a fauxpology? Just like it sounds, this is a fake apology! Make sure your apologies don’t sound like fauxpologies!

Following are words and phrases to avoid and what you can say to help ensure that your apology is sincere:

  • “Sorry”: Although you are apologizing, merely saying “sorry” leaves out the personal admission of fault. It almost sounds like an alternative to saying. “excuse me”. By simply adding “I am…” in front, it makes the apology  more heartfelt.
  • “My bad”: Unless you are apologizing for an extremely minor offense, this response may be received as flippant. It is an admittance that something is your fault, but it is not an apology. “My bad” can be interchanged with, “oops”. If “oops” does not sound like an appropriate response to the situation, then “my bad” shouldn’t either.
  • I’m sorry if”: This apologetic phrase is really not an apology at all, as it bears no personal responsibility. Many times, if it is following by saying “you”, it can be received as a passive-aggressive way to express that the other person is in the wrong. Think about it: “I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings”, “I’m sorry if you felt that way” directs the issue back to the other person.
  • “I’m sorry, but”: This phrase is an apology immediately followed by an excuse or a justification that negates the apology. The last thing the other person wants is an excuse or a justification.
  • “I apologize”: Saying “I apologize” rather than “I’m sorry” is a more formal admission of wrongdoing or an error. Sometimes in business this is more accepted, when you simply want to be have your wrong made right either through action or compensation. In personal relationships, however; the formality of the phrase can sound there is no remorse present. As Gilbert Chesterton, a twentieth century English writer and philosopher wrote, “A stiff apology is a second insult. The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.”

Here are some examples of words and ways you can strengthen an apology:

  • “I’m sorry that I…” In this phrase, you are pointing back to yourself two times to admit fault. Describe what you are sorry for doing or saying, and express your personal responsibility.
  • Share your feelings of remorse: If what you did or said bothered you, this is not the time to hide it! Instead, let the other person know!
  • Apologize in person or at least over the telephone or voice text: When you apologize over email or text, your apology is 100% based on your words. When you apologize over the phone or with voice text, the other person hears the sincerity in your voice. When you apologize by video or in person, the other person not only hears your voice which strengthens your words, and they also see your facial expressions.

None of the above are guaranteed that the other person will accept your apology. However, doing your best to show your sincerity through your words and actions will go a long way.​