How to Accept an Apology

Three Parts:Assessing the ApologyAccepting the ApologyPutting Your Acceptance into Action

When someone apologizes to you for doing or saying something wrong, it can difficult to accept the apology. This could be because you are not sure if the apology is sincere or you need time to assess and think about the apology. Once you make up your mind to accept the person’s apology, you can do so with words and with actions. If the apology seems genuine and sincere, you should try to accept the apology and then act on that acceptance by practicing forgiveness.

Part 1
Assessing the Apology

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    Pay attention to the phrasing of the apology. Take the time to analyze the person’s phrasing when she apologizes to you. Note if she uses “I” statements, such as “I realize now what I did was wrong and I regret what I did.” You should also listen to her tone of voice and her body language. If she maintains eye contact with you and her voice sounds sincere when she apologizes, she may be trying to be genuine. If she avoids eye contact and uses a sarcastic or flat tone, she may not mean what she is saying.[1]
    • An authentic apology should be direct and heartfelt. For example: “I realize now what I did was wrong and I regret what I did. I apologize for my actions and hope you can find a way to forgive me.”
    • A shy, socially anxious, or autistic person might avoid eye contact while genuinely meaning the apology.
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    Watch for any passive aggressive phrasing in the apology. This may be a sign the apology is not genuine. She may uses “I” statements but she may also point out how you were wrong or how you forced her to act badly. This type of phrasing could be a sign that the apology is not heartfelt and is really a way for the person to pass blame onto you or to not have to deal with the consequences of her actions.[2]
    • For example, a passive aggressive apology might be: “I asked you to go with me to the party but you refused, so I ended up going alone and lying to you about it. If you had said yes in the first place, I would not have had to lie. That said, I am sorry.” This person may not be giving you an authentic apology and may just be leaning on a bad habit of using an apology to get out of a sticky situation.
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    Rely on your gut instinct. For all the analysis you can do on a person's intentions, often your gut instinct can be a good gauge of whether or not to trust and accept the person's apology. Take a moment to consider the apology and listen to your gut feelings about the person and her apology. Is your gut telling you the person is being honest and sincere? Do you have any feelings of doubt or confusion around the person and her apology to you?
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    Consider if you are ready to accept the person’s apology. Before you accept the apology, you may want to consider the context around the apology and how well you know the person. If it is a close friend who is apologizing for behaving badly towards you, and she has a history of this behavior, you may want to consider if she is using apologies as excuses for her actions. If a family member or partner is apologizing to you for something out of character and rare, you may be more amenable to accepting their apology.[3]
    • People make mistakes and lie or hurt others for a variety of reasons. It is important that you are willing to move past the person’s mistake, especially if they offer a sincere apology. If you are still questioning whether or not you believe the person’s apologetic tone, you may want to have a longer conversation with her about your concerns. This may be a better approach than accepting an apology you do not believe is sincere and remaining resentful or upset, despite appearing to be okay with the situation.

Part 2
Accepting the Apology

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    Thank the person for the apology. Start by telling the person you appreciate her apology and her willingness to make amends. This could be a simple, “Thank you for apologizing” or “I appreciate your apology, thank you.”[4]
    • Avoid brushing off the person’s apology by saying “It’s fine” or “It’s nothing”. Responding in a flippant tone can end up hurting the other person’s feelings and leave the situation unresolved. Be willing to show gratitude to the person for getting up the courage to apologize and admit her mistake.
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    Explain that your feelings were hurt. Once you thank the person for her apology, you should make it clear that your feelings were hurt and be specific about how the person hurt you. This will indicate that you are being honest about your emotions and you are not being casual or flippant about the situation. You may say: “Thank you for apologizing. I was really hurt when you lied to me” or “I appreciate your apology, thank you. It hurt my feelings when you yelled at me in front of my parents”.[5]
    • Be clear and direct about how you felt when the person behaved badly, but avoid using a passive aggressive tone. Try to be as sincere and honest as the person was when she apologized to you.
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    Say “I understand” rather than “it’s okay”. Finish the acceptance by saying you understand why the person did what they did and that you are willing to accept her apology and move forward. You may say: “I understand why you felt the need to lie and I accept your apology”.[6]
    • Using a brush off like “it’s okay” or “let’s forget it” will not be a clear way of letting the person know you accept her apology. It may also come across as disrespectful, especially if the person is very serious about her apology.

Part 3
Putting Your Acceptance into Action

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    Write a letter to the person about acceptance and forgiveness. Once you have accepted the person's apology, it can be difficult to actually act on your acceptance and forgiveness. You may still be feeling resentful, hurt, or upset by the person's words or actions and may struggle with how to truly forgive her. One way to process your emotions is to compose a letter to the person that focuses on how and why she hurt you and how you are going to work towards truly forgiving her.
    • Be specific in your letter and do not be afraid to be honest. You may discuss why you still feel hurt and resentful towards the person and note that it may take you some time to move past her words or actions. For example, you may note, "I am still upset by what you did but I am going to work on forgiving you for your actions. I think our friendship is strong enough to move past this and I am going to really try to process my emotions and release my hurt feelings."
    • You may or may not decide to give the letter to the person, as it may contain information that you may not want her to read. But the act of simply writing down your feelings and addressing the person directly can help you to heal and move on.
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    Suggest spending quality time with the person. Another way to put your forgiveness into action is to show the person that you accept her apology. Suggest spending quality time together to show the person you still enjoy her company and want to continue to be friends. [7]
    • You could plan an outing or an activity where you both have to work together and support each other, like a collaborative art class or playing a sport. This would show that you are willing to rebuild trust with the person and renew your relationship with her. You could also suggest doing something together that you both enjoyed doing in the past as a way to show you are willing to move past any issues and remember the positive times you spent together.
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    Be prepared if any issues or problems arise between you and the person again. While you should commit yourself to trying to fully trust the person again, especially if she offers you a heartfelt apology and you accept it, you should also be on the look out for warning signs. These could be small moments that indicate the person may make the same mistake again or may be falling back into bad habits that could lead to an issue and the need for another apology. Try to steer the person away from making another mistake or hurting you again like she did before.
    • For example, you may notice that the person is starting to show up later and later for your arranged dates or plans and you may be worried she may be falling back into her bad habit of always being late. You may want to casually mention that you've noticed she is starting to show up later and later when you agree to meet up and that it really bothers you. Remind her that she already had to apologize once for showing up late or not at all to your agreed upon date and that you find it hurtful when she does this. This may then steer her away from showing up late and help you both avoid another situation where she will have to apologize to you.

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