Home Life Tips How to Respond to an Apology
how to respond to an apology

How to Respond to an Apology

by Martha Simmonds

Having our feelings hurt is never nice. Even the most minor insult or slight can be painful. At the moment we can often react badly. An apology may be due and even come, but it can be more difficult if you are not ready to hear it.

Apologizing doesn’t come easy for everyone. Even if you are still angry or hurt, remember that it may not be easy for them to say sorry, even if they are. If you value the relationship, don’t just say okay. Here are some tips for how to respond to an apology.

Responding to an Apology


If you are still hurt or upset over what has happened, you may not be ready to accept the apology. But hanging on to the anger doesn’t serve any good purpose. If someone is willing to apologize, here are a few things you can do.

1. Listen

Listen to what they say. You want to hear what they are apologizing for and you want to listen carefully to make sure it is genuine. They should never use the word ‘you’ but’, or make excuses.

If they mention the issue exactly, that means they understand the infraction and why you are upset. Of course, it will also matter who is saying the apology. A partner, a friend, a boss.

Listen for clues to make sure they are being sincere. They may be just saying it because someone else put pressure on them, it may be a way to move past this situation quickly and get back to normal.

2. Acknowledge the Apology

You were genuinely hurt or upset by what happened. That means you have the right to the apology. You also have the right to not let them off the hook. Don’t just say, ‘it’s okay.

Thank them for their apology. It doesn’t mean you are accepting it, it just means that you have heard them and acknowledged that they are trying. You can say, ‘I hear you’ or ‘thank you for apologizing’.

If you are not sure you want to accept the apology, tell them so. You can be kind about it, but tell them you need some more time. If they challenge you on this, then you likely made the right choice.

3. To Accept or To Not Accept

Take some time to think about what has happened and what you want to do. Is this the first time this has happened or is it just another incident in a long list of incidents?

If you genuinely value the friendship or relationship, then it is in both of your interests to accept the apology. You can let them know, kindly, that they hurt your feelings and that their behavior is unacceptable.

Or, you can not accept it and move on. The moving on part is important. Holding on to anger is not healthy for you, and will affect both your mental and physical health.

If this is a co-worker or an acquaintance, it doesn’t matter much. If it is a closer friend or family member, it can be more difficult. As long as you let go of the anger, you can still get on with your life, just without them.

4. Sorry Seems to be The Hardest Word

We use ‘sorry’ a lot. But how often is it genuine? We bump into someone, we say sorry. We break someone’s coffee mug at work, we say sorry. But when it comes to feelings, it can get complicated.

Don’t accept an apology you feel is not heartfelt or said in haste to avoid further issues. It can be difficult for people to be genuine, so allow them the chance to apologize to you and then you can decide what you do with it.

You may also like