How to Apologize to Someone You Hurt

Apologizing is more than saying “I’m sorry”; it’s a step towards rebuilding trust and nurturing your relationships. 

We’ve all been there – a momentary lapse, a hasty word, or an unintended action that ends up causing pain. It’s what we do next that matters. 

Use this interactive toolkit and practice scenario to improve your apology skills. 

A meaningful apology has 5 parts →

To genuinely apologize, you must first grasp the heart of the issue. It’s about active listening, empathy, and perspective-taking. Try to understand the full extent of the repercussions of your actions, as this understanding lays the groundwork for a meaningful apology.

In other words, before you say sorry, you need to really get what you did and why it wasn’t okay. Listen and think about it from their side. It’s not just about knowing you messed up, but understanding how it made the other person feel.

Begin with those two powerful words: “I’m sorry.” This explicit admission is a crucial part of an apology. Go beyond a simple sorry; be specific to show you recognize and own the exact hurt you’ve caused. 

Saying “I’m sorry” matters. It’s not about fancy words, it’s a clear and simple way to share that you see you’ve caused pain. Set aside your ego and put them first.

This step can be tough. It’s about looking at yourself and saying, “Yeah, I messed up.” It’s not fun to admit, but it’s key for making things better. Be straight about it and don’t make excuses.

Only offer context if it helps explain your actions, but be careful to not provide excuses, as this will dilute your apology.

This is about more than confessing wrongdoing; it’s an opportunity for personal evolution.


Try to understand how they feel and let them know you really regret what you did. 

True remorse requires vulnerability. It’s about sharing not just the understanding of the hurt caused but feeling it, too. Empathize, without defense or resentment, and show that you grasp the depth of the emotional impact your actions have had.

Finally, pledge to change and make concrete steps towards it. This isn’t just about saying what they want to hear; it’s a promise to act differently. Involve them in deciding how best to move forward—this collaborative approach can powerfully demonstrate your dedication to repairing the bonds between you.

Keep in mind that trust can’t always be restored, or it may take time. Try to fix what you can and learn from this experience. Tell them how you’ll change and make sure you do it. It’s about showing you’re willing to make things better, for real.

Apologizing is a skill, it takes practice

You should learn these steps, but memorizing them alone won’t be enough to help you in real life. Every situation and relationship is different, and requires sensitivity to the other person’s unique needs and the hurt caused by your actions. If apologizing feels hard at first, be kind with yourself and patient. Over time, apologizing and managing conflict become skills through practice. Start with small steps like staying calm, focusing on the other person’s needs and being open, honest and vulnerable as you make your apology. Each time a situation comes up you will get a bit better with practice.

Play through the scenario below for a safe space to practice apologizing. It walks you through an example situation to help you understand the impact of your words and actions. At the end, you’ll get tips for how to improve your approach constructively.

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How to Apologize was created by Hot Neon Learning for Men & by Bluerock Social Impact Partners and FearIsNotLove.