, Gloucester, MA

June 21, 2013

Sincere apologies crucial in friendships

Personal Matters
Susan Britt

---- — Problem: You forgot a date to spend an evening out with a friend. Although you have said you are sorry, she’s still angry with you.

Solution: Apologize again in a more complete and meaningful way.

Apologies are a crucial element in human relations because they help communicate to others the feeling that we value them, that we regret hurting them and that we want to maintain our relationships with them.

It is important to know how to apologize because many of us, at one time or another, say or do something that hurts someone else. We may say or do these hurtful things unintentionally, hurting others because we are stressed, preoccupied with our personal problems, emotionally distressed or simply forgetful.

Nonetheless, when we hurt someone we care about, even if it was entirely unintended, we need to apologize sincerely. And, it is especially important to make the apology meaningful particularly to the person whose feelings we have hurt. Here are some examples:

Make the apology sincere and complete. A quick, lukewarm “sorry” just isn’t enough when someone is hurt.

Take the time to express your apology fully and sincerely. Make eye contact, and, if it is appropriate to the relationship, take the hand of the person to whom you are apologizing.

Make it quite clear that you understand the effect your words or actions have had, including the hurt you caused: “I am really, truly sorry that I forgot about our evening out. I know you were really looking forward to it, and I know I hurt you when I forgot about it.”

Offer the reasons for, or provide some insight into your actions: “I had a horrible day at work and I was upset by some things my boss said to me. Because of that stress, everything else just went right out of my mind that day.”

Promise to be more reliable about keeping any future engagements: “I promise that when we make plans, I won’t disappoint you again. I’ll be there.”

Make amends: “Let me make it up to you. Why don’t we go out to dinner and a movie tonight? If you like, we can go to your favorite restaurant, and you can pick the movie. It will be my treat!”

Honoring your friendship with an apology that acknowledges the hurt you caused, expresses true regret, and offers the gift of making amends sends the message to your friend that you treasure her and your friendship. Offering a full, sincere apology is not only healing for your relationship, it is healing for you by demonstrating not only respect for your friendship, but also respect for yourself and your role in it.

Based in Rockport, psychotherapist and life coach Susan Britt, M.Ed., teaches individuals, couples and families to resolve relationship conflicts, achieve goals, and accelerate personal growth. Questions and comments may be addressed to her at or 978-546-9431.