Maisie spilled soda on her friend’s borrowed dress. Aiden tweeted a photo when Tafweez tripped over his crush’s bag and landed in her lap. Tasha dropped her mom’s favorite plate — then responded by yelling at her mom because she was so upset at her mistake.
We all mess up. We’re human, and it’s not always easy to get along with everyone all the time. Sometimes we hurt people’s feelings without intending to. Sometimes, we’re deliberately mean and we feel bad afterward. So we apologize.
An apology tells someone that we’re sorry for the hurt we caused — even if we didn’t do it on purpose. It’s a way of saying we’re aware of what we did and we’ll try to do better in future.
Apologies are one of the tools we use to build good friendships and relationships. When you say “I’m sorry” (and really mean it), it’s because you probably feel bad that something you did or said hurt another person. Saying you’re sorry is more than just words. You’re also saying that you respect the other person and you care about his or her feelings. Apologizing shows you have empathy.
After apologizing, you might feel a little better. The other person probably will, too. When you apologize in a caring way, you can feel good because you are trying to make things right again.
What Does an Apology Sound Like?
There are many ways to apologize. Here are some examples:
- “I’m sorry about the mean thing I said to you.”
- “I’m sorry I lost your book.”
- “I was mad, but I shouldn’t have called you a name. I’m sorry.”
- “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.”
- “I’m sorry I yelled at you.”
- “I’m really sorry I pushed you when I was mad. That was wrong. I won’t do it anymore.”
When Should You Apologize?
If someone is upset because of something you did, you’ll want to set things right. Here are some times when an apology can make the difference:
- If you hurt or tease someone, even if you didn’t mean it.
- If you lose or break something that belonged to someone else.
- If you did something you knew was wrong — like telling a lie or breaking a rule on purpose.
- If you didn’t do something you were supposed to do — like keeping a promise or a curfew.
Everyone needs to apologize (even adults) when they do something wrong. By doing the right thing and saying “I’m sorry,” parents and other adults set an example. This is how kids learn to apologize when they need to.
Does Apologizing Fix Everything?
Sometimes a heartfelt “I’m sorry” fixes everything right away. Other times, it might take a while for someone to get past feeling upset. You may need to give the other person some time. Even after you say you’re sorry, you might still feel bad about what you said or did — but you can feel good about apologizing, fixing the mistake, or making up your mind to do better.
What If You’ve Been Hurt?
When someone apologizes to you, you may welcome it and be ready to forgive whatever happened and move on. Or you might not feel like being friendly again right away. If a person keeps hurting you and apologizing without making an effort to change, you might not want to hang out with that person anymore.
Just because someone apologizes doesn’t mean you have to be friends. It’s polite to accept and acknowledge an apology, but anything more is up to you!
Reviewed by: D’Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: April 2015