The Art Of Apologizing (Like A Real Grown Up)

In first grade, it was so simple. Having to apologize literally meant you just had to say two words: I’m sorry.

Sometimes a hug was status quo or you had to share your Cosmic Brownie depending on the scenario, but let’s be honest, there just wasn’t much to it.

Of course when you got in trouble at age seven, it was most likely because you called someone a “stupid head” (classic) or accidentally broke their favorite pencil. Fast-forward a decade and a half, and things are a heck of a lot more complicated than that.

For starters, we use language much more colorful than “stupid head” and break other people’s hearts more often than pencils.

As we get older, our mistakes get messier. College is a whirlwind of new faces and experiences. Let’s face it: we’re all bound to do things we’re not proud of at some point in the chaos they call growing up.

Whether it was something as little as excluding a friend from an outing or something as big as hooking up with someone who was way off limits, giving a sincere apology is always the best thing to do.

We’ve been told since we were little to always right our wrongs, but it’s not so easy when the moment arises. Here are some things to remember when you’ve messed up and you’re in the hot seat:

1. Confess immediately

Not in a few weeks. Not when you’re ready. Immediately. If you did something bad, it’s better if the person finds out from you rather than a third party. Sweeping your mistakes under the rug will only leave you with a guilty conscience, and the truth has a way of coming out in the end. You don’t want to walk around with that guilt weighing on your shoulders. Come clean, darlin’. You can do it.

2. …In person

Put your phone down. Texting an apology will not suffice if you want to be taken seriously. It doesn’t matter how many paragraphs you type out, texting still says “I’m too afraid to talk to you face to face so I’m taking the easy way out.” Talking in person will always be the most heartfelt form of communication so resist the urge to text, and only call if distance truly requires it. One sincere look on your 3D face > a million 2D sad face emojis. Seriously.

3. Be completely honest

We all know this is the hardest part; being honest. You may be tempted to leave out details or only tell part of the story when you’re confessing. But honey, it will be so much healthier for you to get everything out in the open. Trust me, you want to come clean about everything now rather than have the person you hurt find out there was more to the story later on. Be brutally honest, and even if your hands are shaking, say what you need to say. Wait is that a John Mayer song? Yes, yes it is. And the man’s got a point.

4. Don’t make excuses

It’s so tempting to fall back on excuses to try and make the situation seem less bad. But does it really count as a sincere apology if you don’t completely own up to whatever you did? We don’t think so. Don’t blame it on the alcohol. Take full responsibility if you want your apology to be respected. It’s much more honorable to hear “I have no excuses, and I’m truly sorry,” instead of  “I was just really drunk.”

5. Stay calm

If an apology turns into a fight, you’re doing it wrong. Yes, the other person might get a little riled up, but that doesn’t mean you should too. Keep calm and suppress the urge to raise your voice. There is power in composure. Think Dr. Phil, not Jerry Springer.

6. They’re going to need some time

After you’ve confessed, the person you’ve wronged will probably want a little break from you. Don’t panic: that’s normal and even healthy. They will need some time to take everything in, and giving them space is a gracious move. If you follow the person around like a puppy dog, begging for forgiveness, there is a 90% chance you will get socked in the face. Okay, maybe they won’t sock you, but they will probably want to. Give the person time to be away from you. After a few days or a week, apologize one more time, and then, guess what? You get to move on with your life.

7. They might not forgive you

Worst-case scenario, the person you hurt might not forgive you. That’s their choice and there’s nothing you can do at that point. Here’s the bad news: you might lose a friend or cut ties with an acquaintance. Here’s the good news: you did the right thing by apologizing and you get to live life with a clear conscience. If your pal can’t find it in his or her heart to forgive you, the relationship probably wasn’t as strong as it should have been from the get-go. The people who are meant to stay in your life will stay.

8. Remember how you feel in that moment

There are very few emotions that are as draining as feeling ashamed of yourself. If you’re anything like us, your mistake becomes all you can think about and quickly eats up all your energy. After you apologize and the guilty feelings start to dissipate, don’t forget what it felt like to be in the hot seat. Not only will it motivate you to avoid doing things you know you shouldn’t do: it will also make you a more forgiving person. Someone will inevitably hurt you in the future. Remembering how you felt when you were in their position can lend you a better perspective. After all, you can’t expect forgiveness now if you aren’t willing to grant it later.

9. Learn from your mistakes

They say that your mistakes don’t define you unless you make the same ones over and over. Reflecting on your mistake, can help you figure out what changes you want to make in your life. See? There is an upside. Maybe you need to concentrate on putting your girlfriends before your love interests. Maybe you need to work on communicating with the people around you. Whatever the situation is, if you take the lesson to heart, some aspect of your life will improve. Take it from Bradley Cooper, there’s always a silver lining.

10. Remember, You’re human

Just because you did a bad thing doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Everybody screws up. Life is imperfect, confusing and messy, and people are no exception. You aren’t the only person who has ever done something wrong, love. Cut yourself a break. You’re allowed to mess up every now and then. In fact, you’re kind of supposed to.

Now take a deep breath, make that apology and remember, life goes on.

Image via Amelia Kramer