We gather you are here after you hurt someone’s feelings. Was it your boyfriend? Wife perhaps? You’re trying to figure out how to apologize to someone you hurt and looking for ways of expressing regret. It is said that we hurt the people we love the most. Truth be told, we hurt the people who love us the most. Because we are assured they are going to be there no matter what, we sometimes blurt things out that we shouldn’t have and end up feeling like a bad person.
Generally speaking, these fights are a part and parcel of life. What matters the most in a relationship is the length you are ready to go for damage control. And that begins now, with accepting responsibility for your behavior along with a heartfelt apology to your loved one. Whether you hurt someone intentionally or unintentionally, when you try to make things right and apologize sincerely, it can go a long way in strengthening your bond with that person.
So, how do you say sorry for hurtful things? Is a written apology effective enough or are deep apologies better delivered face to face? Let us talk about ways of making amends with a sincere apology and winning back the person you hurt feelings of. We’re in consultation with counselor Manjari Saboo (Master in Applied Psychology and Post Graduate Diploma in Family Therapy and Child Care Counseling), founder of Maitree Counseling, an initiative dedicated to the emotional well-being of families and children.
12 Sincere Ways To Apologize To Someone You Hurt
Table of Contents
Saying hurtful things can leave behind an emotional scar on the other person’s mind. Some day, you will realize its negative effect on your relationship, but chances are it might be too late by then. Doing or saying hurtful things can cause irreparable damage if nothing is done about it.
You may be filled with regret over your actions but unless you acknowledge being in the wrong and put efforts to do right by the loved one you’ve hurt, even the most genuine feelings of remorse won’t yield any results. Naturally, it’s better if you take responsibility and apologize when you are wrong. Don’t feel bad for yourself when someone won’t accept your apology any longer simply because they are done, with you and the relationship.
Manjari says, “Where there is love, there is demand and anger. Where there is care, there is definitely an apology. Sometimes we tend to take relationships for granted. Intentionally or unintentionally, we hurt the ones who are close to us with words, actions, or habits. But if we care for their happiness, we should apologize for our actions.” Let’s learn how to apologize to someone you hurt. We have come up with 12 ways of saying “I’m sorry if I’ve hurt you knowingly or unknowingly”:
Related Reading: 8 Ways to Reconnect After a Big Fight
1. Take responsibility for your actions
“To err is human; to forgive is divine. But learning and admitting the wrong is definitely ‘divine in self.’ Being able to accept responsibility for our actions makes us strong and courageous. Once you admit to your actions, you have a clear conscience with zero doubts and conflicts,” says Manjari.
Let’s face it, not everyone has the emotional capacity to take responsibility when they have done something wrong. Ego, pride, self-obsession – a lot of factors come in their way of being the bigger person and saying, “Sorry to hurt your feelings. I apologize for the mistake I made.” But if you don’t feel uncomfortable with acknowledging your faults, we can tell you how to take responsibility for hurting someone and how to show remorse in a relationship:
- Blame-shifting is not the right move. If you’ve committed a mistake, be courageous enough to own it
- Don’t try to defend your actions with some excuse. An apology with a ‘but’ never works
- When the person you’re apologizing to sees that you understand and accept your mistake, they will begin to forgive you too
- You need to comprehend the difference underlying a manipulative apology vs. genuine apology
- Apologizing without change is manipulation. If you are not ready to do what it takes to make things right or don’t really mean what you say, don’t apologize just for the sake of it
- How to apologize when you’re both wrong? At least you can take ownership of the part you played in the mishap and make space for the other person to admit theirs
2. Your honest gestures will win back their heart
They say that actions are louder than words. If you are wondering how to apologize to a man you hurt or if there are any cute ways to say sorry to your girlfriend after a fight, this is your first clue. A heartfelt gesture is hard to overlook, especially when you put in sincere efforts.
Manjari says, “The best part about honesty is you don’t have to fake it. For example, if your partner is a foodie, apologizing with a large box of pizza or a tub of ice cream will definitely earn you some much-needed brownie points. Likewise, giving flowers is a beautiful gesture to make the other person understand that you had good intentions and that you feel bad about the unfortunate turns of events.”
- You could give them a handmade card or a bouquet with “I’m sorry for hurting your feelings” written on a note
- Standing down on both knees and holding both ears is an adorable way to move forward from the unpleasantness
- You can even write a heartfelt apology letter for hurting someone you love to let them know that there won’t be a next time
- This can be a great approach if putting your feelings into words isn’t your strongest suit or your partner doesn’t want to talk to you
- Perseverance is the key. If they continue to ignore you, try texting them
- The best way to say sorry in a text is by sending them long and heartfelt messages (Don’t send too many apology texts if they’ve asked for space)
- If the matter at hand is not too serious or damaging, GIFs and memes can be a great antidote to feelings of hurt and pain
Once you make them smile, the ice is broken. And that would make things easy from here on to apologize to someone you love. If you are looking for sincere apologies examples for the best impact, you may want to try one or all of the above options.
3. Take immediate steps to fix things
How to apologize in relationship 101: Saying sorry doesn’t fix everything. You can go on for about 18 pages in an apology letter for hurting someone you love. No matter how genuine and heartfelt it is, it alone cannot fix the damage you have caused. An apology has absolutely no impact if it doesn’t reflect in your behavior and actions and if you keep repeating the same mistakes.
Suppose, your partner bumped into their ex at the mall and they greeted each other with a hug. You felt jealous and stormed out of there. Later, you realize that if you can’t let go of the fact that your partner ended the relationship on good terms with their ex, you may lose what you have with them right now. That’s your cue to march over to their place immediately and admit, “I sincerely apologize for the way I treated you earlier.”
You confess how you have been feeling insecure about your partner’s association with their ex and mutually find a solution to your predicament. Trust me, it won’t work the same after seven days of stonewalling and badmouthing each other. If you want to learn how to apologize to someone you hurt unintentionally, know that we need to take matters into our own hands sometimes to repair the damage caused by us.
Related Reading: 18 Cute Apology Gift Ideas To Tell Her How Sorry You Are
4. Apologize through a handwritten note
Given that you are here to learn how to show remorse in an earnest way, this is one of the most sincere apologies examples that you may follow. In the digital era with everyone glued to their phones, everything feels so impersonal. Sending them a handwritten apology letter will help them know that they mean a lot to you.
Our reader, Anita, who has been happily married for 20 years, swears by this approach, “Whenever we have a fight or argument and I’m at fault, I quietly slip a detailed, sincere apology note in my husband’s office bag. He does the same when the tables are turned. It started as a one-off after a nasty fight that brought us to the brink of a breakup back when we were dating. Since then, it has become a relationship ritual we both uphold.”
- When you apologize to someone in a letter, it allows you to put your thoughts across more earnestly and honestly
- This way, your plea sounds more personal
- Sending a handwritten apology note will make them recognize your effort sooner
- How do you say sorry for hurtful things? Make sure that you pour your heart out in the note and not leave out any detail
- This is a great way to send your apology to someone who’s not talking to you
5. Let them know you realize your mistake
A study found meaningful reduction in depression and anxiety symptoms in the participants who practiced forgiveness. But the first step of an apology is to acknowledge that you have done something wrong and that you know exactly where the mistake lies. There could be times when the person you’ve hurt doesn’t want to have anything to do with you. Do not let this demotivate you. Instead, focus on figuring out how to apologize to someone you hurt deeply.
Take the example of Sasha, who lost her longtime boyfriend owing to her compulsive shopping habits. Every time she’d go berserk on a shopping spree, her boyfriend would try to make her see how the habit was affecting her financially. She’d apologize and then, succumb to temptation eventually. Eventually, it cost her the relationship.
She couldn’t get over him. So, she started keeping a record of all the times she wanted to shop but held herself back. A year later, she mailed the carefully curated spreadsheet to her ex and asked if he’d take her back and give the relationship another chance. He could see that she had realized her mistake, and they got back together.
- Making the other person see that you realize your mistake and are willing to make amends can go a long way in keeping your relationship safe and strong
- One way of doing it is to name the things that you think went wrong and explain why you are apologetic about it
- If you are trying to figure out how to apologize for being disrespectful, confess the things that make you feel guilty and drive you to become a better person moving forward
- When they fully understand how sorry and distraught you are because of the incident that happened, they will eventually soften up. They will forgive you
6. Show that you’re working on yourself
“How to apologize for hurting someone you love? Put your words into action to show that you are working on improving the not-so-nice aspects of your personality. To enhance the relationship and show that you are sorry, let your changed behavior be revealed from your attitude, your routine, your habits, and not just your words,” Manjari advises.
Know that sometimes what people want isn’t just an apology. They want to see whether you take responsibility to improve yourself or not. This is especially true if you have hurt someone you love repeatedly by doing the very things that were driving a wedge between you in the first place. Imagine an alcoholic ranting away while he is drunk. The family who has to deal with this doesn’t just want an apology. They want him to stop drinking and become sober.
So if you’ve just entered a relationship, it’s better to learn how to apologize to your boyfriend for hurting his feelings or how to show your girlfriend you are eager to make things better. We think one of the most sincere apology examples is to present yourself as a changed man/woman, an improved version of yourself if you may.
Related Reading: 15 Qualities Of A Good Relationship That Make Life Bliss
7. When you apologize to someone you hurt, assure them that you won’t do it again
Sometimes it may take longer for a person to let go and forgive you because they fear that you may hurt them the same way again. This fear and dented trust make it harder for them to forgive you even if they want to. One of the most genuine ways to apologize to someone you hurt a long time ago is to repeatedly reassure your loved one that the mistake won’t happen again.
The person you have hurt may have developed insecurity and trust issues owing to your actions. You need to assure them that you only have good intentions when this relationship is concerned and that you have learned from your mistakes to do better. This may take longer but you need to keep trying. Show them how terrible you feel about the incident and how it changed your perspective. The path of words of affirmation and reassurance is the best way to say sorry in a text or in person.
How to apologize to someone you’ve hurt because of your infidelity? If you’re trying to win back the trust and affection of your partner, being completely transparent with them is the best way to reassure them that they have no reason to fear that you’ll go down the same path again. In due course, you will be able to earn their forgiveness.
8. Talk to them openly
Whether you’re trying to figure out how to apologize to a man you hurt or a spouse whose trust you broke or a loved one who felt let down by your action, this step is a non-negotiable part of the process. Opening up about your thoughts and feelings along with being a good listener is what holds a relationship together, be it with a partner or your best friend. Our expert says the following:
- Communication pulls all the strings of distance
- Interacting through words and just clearing the air over any prevailing rifts can put the minds of both parties at ease
- Even if they don’t want to talk to you, give them some time to cool down and then try to reach out
- However, in doing so, you must steer clear of justifying your actions in any way or make the person you’ve hurt feel responsible for your actions
- Spend time explaining your point of view in a very natural tone, without placing blame, and lend a patient ear when the other person puts forth their perspective
- Maintain eye contact as you offer the apology. Hiding glances suggests you still feel guilty about lying or that you’re skipping important details
If you don’t know how to apologize to someone you hurt, sometimes just having an honest and sincere conversation with that person helps a lot. It feels more personal and you both get a chance to talk about your perspective of the incident. Pick a quiet environment to have this conversation and make sure that there’s no one to interrupt. Talk about it till you both reach a solution. Take breaks in between if you need to.
9. How to say sorry to someone you hurt? Don’t make it about yourself
Believe it or not, a lot of people tend to commit this blunder while apologizing, especially those who have a hard time accepting their fault. You are probably wondering, “How can someone make themselves the center of attention in an apology when they are supposed to be the guilt-ridden and humble party?” Well, let’s go through the dos and don’ts for your benefit:
- First of all, don’t play the victim card
- Yes, you feel remorse, you couldn’t be more regretful. But your apology speech doesn’t have to be filled with your sob story
- It has to revolve around the person whose feelings you’ve hurt
- They are already dealing with the aftermath of breach of trust. Don’t overburden them with your guilty conscience
- Always use ‘I’ pronouns instead of ‘you’ pronouns when you are apologizing
- For instance, say, “I am sorry I got your car scratched. I should have been more careful.” What you shouldn’t say is “I am sorry your car got scratched but you are the one who asked me to get into that narrow lane.”
- If you have any reason for defending your actions, save it until after your partner accepts your apology and is ready to see the situation with an open mind
10. Understand the gravity of the situation
As we’ve discussed, an apology can be framed with different words and gestures – some light-hearted, some pretty serious. The one you opt for depends on the mess you are in right now. Do you need tips on how to apologize for overreacting? Or are you apologizing for lying to the person you love the most? Did you forget your girlfriend’s birthday? Did you get caught cheating? Or is it something as trivial as replying late to your boyfriend’s texts?
All situations warrant damage control but in very different manners. For the last instance, you can apologize over text, perhaps send a heart-melting voice note or some cute couple memes and your partner should be fine. For forgetting a birthday, you may show up at their door with a cake and a bunch of peonies or plan a romantic date night to pacify their anger.
But applying any of these techniques to fix a broken relationship after cheating might shut you out of their life forever because a bouquet or a puppy GIF only minimizes the gravity of the situation. Your partner is already having a hard time letting go of this incident, and the fact that you don’t understand the hurt you have caused them will fuel their pain and anger even further.
11. Don’t give up easily when you’re seeking forgiveness from a loved one
Many times, we lose valuable people in our lives because we get tired of apologizing and eventually give up. If you regret hurting someone you love, you won’t give up till this person has forgiven you. To someone who’s looking for an answer to how to apologize for overstepping boundaries or even more serious issues like infidelity, we would suggest that you hang in there. Because these wounds take time to heal and so does forgiveness.
“Once you give up, you may close all channels of communication for good, and then reviving your bond with the person you hurt can become impossible. You may either have to live with the regret of losing someone important to you or find yourself racking your brains over how to apologize to someone you hurt a long time ago.
“If you want your relationship to last and want to keep it healthy, then letting it go should never be an option. Do everything in your power to make your relationship happy and restore normalcy, that should be the goal,” says Manjari. Showing persistence in your apology will help them cool off faster. Some people remain mad at you even if they’ve mentally forgiven you. This is because they want to see whether it’s a manipulative apology or you actually mean. They might make you work to regain their trust.
12. Live up to the promises you make
Another thing to remember is to not make any false promises because that will make your relationship fake. An article published by the Etiquette School of America suggests that the last act of the 7 steps of an apology is to keep the promises you made. This seems to be the most difficult part if you haven’t been completely honest with your intent.
Making fake promises will only give them false hopes and expectations. This will hurt them even more when you’re unable to live up to them. Call a spade a spade. If you want a casual relationship, make it clear to them instead of pretending to be exclusive. After all, when you are putting so much effort into apologizing and earning a place back in their heart, why would you want to build this new chapter of your relationship based on lies or half-truths? Think about it.
Related Reading: 7 Tips To Forgive A Cheating Boyfriend
“I Hurt Someone I Love How Do I Fix It” – We Tell You
When you are making an apology to someone you’ve wronged, there are instances where they don’t want to listen to anything you have to say. This will demotivate you and may induce self-hate too. How is it even possible to apologize to someone who doesn’t want to talk to you, you may wonder.
- First and foremost, don’t let this get to you. If your efforts are sincere, they will forgive you
- Make sure not to commit the same mistake again, because trust once lost could be lost forever
- How to say sorry to someone you hurt? Though there are many ways to apologize, unless you are sincere in your apologies, it just won’t work
- You can do it through a long text or a handwritten apology letter or maybe a conversation will also help
- It is possible to fix things after you have hurt someone. But if you have been cheating on your partner or doing drugs, you have to change your ways, along with apologizing for your actions
- Try to undo what you have done wrong, make a grand gesture if need be to show your partner that you are ready to go to any length to make peace with them
- Acknowledge what you have done wrong and accept ownership of your actions instead of pushing blame on others
- Take some immediate steps and make sincere apologetic gestures to fix the relationship
- Handwritten notes are a great way of apologizing especially if that person refuses to keep in touch with you
- Work on your betterment to assure your partner that you won’t be repeating the same mistakes in the future
- Don’t make any false promises that you won’t be able to keep
So, these are our tips on how to apologize to someone you hurt unintentionally (or intentionally). Hope you are leaving today with some food for thought and enough encouragement to confess your guilt and do right by your partner.
This article has been updated in August 2023.