How to Apologize Like a Man

by Brett & Kate McKay on August 23, 2009 · 73 comments

in A Man's Life, Dating, Fatherhood, Friendship, Marriage, On Etiquette, Relationships & Family


Source: Life

“I’m sorry.” Two simple words and yet two of the hardest to say. We easily utter them in response to trivial matters like accidentally jostling a stranger on the subway or giving the cashier the wrong change. Yet in important matters and to those who mean the most to us, we can find ourselves practically choking on the words. But the inability to apologize can critically wound all of our relationships, from home to work. Learning how to properly apologize is a necessary step in moving from boy to man.

Why We Don’t Apologize

Pride. Apologizing can be particularly hard for men because it involves the admittance of fault. It’s hard to say that we messed up. That we were wrong. Our pride gets in the way.

Embarrassment. If we messed up royally, doing something truly boneheaded even though we knew better, it can be difficult to talk about it to the person we hurt or let down. We feel stupid and would rather pretend like it didn’t happen.

Anger. Things that need apologizing for are rarely a one way street (more on this later). We probably did something wrong, but the other person probably did too. And sometimes our anger over how they offended us is so great that we justify what we did and can’t get past it to apologize.

The antidote to all 3 obstacles? Humility. The reason we put up these walls is that we have an overinflated view of our true selves. We’re always right; we always have it together. But it ain’t true. We’re human. We mess up sometimes. You have to accept your imperfection as a part of life. Suppressing it will cut you off from others. Embracing it will allow you to grow as a man.

When to Apologize

Even when it’s not fully your fault. There is a breed of man who will not apologize unless he feels 100% at fault for something. “But it’s not my fault!” is his battle cry. He’s not at fault for throwing away an important document at work because no one specifically told him to hold onto it. He’s not at fault for hurting his girlfriend’s feelings because she shouldn’t have been listening to his conversation with his friends.

But almost no situation is 100% one person’s fault. If your wife flew off the handle and called you some cutting things for seemingly no reason, it’s not because she’s just an ice princess; she’s hurt because you’ve been working 80 hour weeks and not spending enough time with her.

Even if the fault split is something like 1%/99%, you still need to work hard to humble yourself and come to an understanding of what that 1% is rooted in. Don’t live your life as though every day you’re pleading your case before an imaginary court, presenting evidence for why you are not at fault and are innocent as charged. It’s not as important to be right as it is to have healthy relationships with others. Would you rather be right than give up your relationship with someone? Would you rather be right than lift the hurt feelings from another? Being self-satisfied in your justice offers little benefit but the feeling of smugness. And smugness won’t keep you warm at night.

You don’t have to apologize for what truly wasn’t your fault, but you can find the things, no matter how small, that you could have handled better. Once you apologize for those things, that will get the ball rolling for the other person to own up to their mistakes. Don’t let pride stop you from being the bigger person and taking the initiative.

Even when you haven’t been caught. As a boy, did you ever break something and then run away, hoping that no one would notice, and that if they did, they wouldn’t connect the crime back to you? This is how a child handles his mistakes. A man owns up to his mistakes and offenses whether or not he thinks he will be held accountable.

Quickly. Apologize as soon as you can after making a mistake or committing an offense. The longer you wait, the more resentment is going to build up on both sides, the harder it will be to make the first move, and the more awkward the situation will become. Be a man and nip it in the bud.

When Not to Apologize

For your beliefs. If you offend someone by standing up for your beliefs because you failed to debate like a gentleman and ended up being snarky, attacking the person personally, or generally acting like an ass, then you should apologize for your boorish behavior. However, if you’ve made a completely respectful argument in favor of your position and a person is simply offended because of the nature of your beliefs, then you should never apologize for that. Don’t be sorry for what you hold near and dear to your heart.

For not meeting unreasonable expectations. You know this guy. His girlfriend expects him to kowtow to her every wish and treat her like a princess 24/7. When he fails to do this, she expects him to grovel in repentance. This isn’t being sensitive, it’s being a whipped weenie.

For everything. This man apologizes for his appearance, for things that aren’t his fault that no one is saying are his fault, and for perceived shortcomings that no one notices until he brings them up. And he keeps on apologizing. Over and over again when everyone else has moved on. Being a compulsive apologizer is highly emasculating and instead of getting you into people’s good graces as you might assume, will simply erode their respect for you.

How to Apologize

Write it if you can’t say it. Sometimes our embarrassment or pride prevents us from going in person to apologize to someone. While a face to face apology is always ideal, if you absolutely can’t do it, then it’s better to get it out then not do it at all. And sometimes a letter or note is actually a superior medium to talking because it allows you to express all of your feelings without forgetting what you want to say or running the risk of setting off another argument.

Use humor when appropriate. Some self-deprecating humor can break the tension and cause you both to laugh. I’ve found that drawing little cartoons of me and my mishap can instantly dissipate my wife’s anger. Note that I said, when appropriate. If you cheated on your girlfriend, don’t crack jokes or make cartoons about it. “And see in this panel, that’s me making out with your best friend.”

Be sincere. This is the cardinal rule of apologies. An insincere apology is in some ways worse than no apology at all. The person’s hurt over your offense will merely be compounded by their anger at your hypocrisy. An insincere apology may take the form of saying you’re sorry but saying it in such a way that your lack of contrition is patently manifest. Another form is the famous “I’m sorry you’re sorry” apology. This apology admits no fault but pretends like saying you’re sorry that the person was hurt or is angry is still pretty big of you. Don’t bother; it will make the person want to stab with you a trident.

Take complete responsibility. Never, ever make any excuses while you’re apologizing. They instantly ruin the weight and sincerity of your confession. Don’t use any “buts.” As in “I’m really sorry that happened, but….” A man takes full responsibility for his mistakes.

Express your understanding of why you were wrong and the weight of your mistake. A person wants to know that you fully understand the seriousness of the situation, that you have thought through exactly why what you did was wrong and the full consequences of your actions. Nobody wants to hear an apology from someone who clearly doesn’t know why they’re in the wrong but feels like apologizing is what they’re “supposed” to do.

Offer to make restitution. This is a key part of the apology process. You should almost always offer to try in any way you can to make up for your misdeed. This obviously isn’t always possible. If you break your wife’s 5th generation family heirloom vase, you can’t go to Target and buy a replacement. But if a situation can be fixed and rectified, that you should pledge to do whatever it takes to do so.

Pledge better behavior in the future. Notice that I said pledge and not promise. While some would argue that if you’re really sorry, you’ll never make the same mistake again, our failings as human beings dictates otherwise. I might be truly sorry for losing my temper on someone, but I’m pretty sure that no matter how hard I try, it’s probably going to happen again somewhere down the line. When you promise someone that something is never going to happen again, you’re setting yourself up for a huge rift to develop if it does. The person will be justifiably doubly hurt, because after all, “You promised!” There are of course some things that you can be almost 100% sure you’ll never do again, and if you feel absolutely confident in that, then make a promise. But generally you should simply pledge that you’re going to be working hard on fixing whatever personality or behavioral faults led to your current offense. You can promise that you’re going to be making an effort to change and turn things around.

Prove your contrition with your actions. In the end, words will matter very little if your actions don’t match them. After you’ve apologized, stop dwelling on it. Simply start acting in a way that demonstrates the sincerity of your apology.

Move on. Once you’ve given your sincere apology, don’t apologize again. Having you continually apologize may be what the offended party thinks they want from you and it may make them feel better in the short term. But in the long term, it’s going to ruin the relationship. If you continue to grovel then you’ll always be in the inferior position instead of having the person treat you like an equal. Deep down they won’t be respecting you as a man. Either the person accepts your apology or they don’t. If they do, then there’s no need to keep groveling. If they don’t, then the person doesn’t trust you and the relationship has other problems that need to be fixed.

{ 72 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Torrey August 23, 2009 at 11:20 pm

There are some people who use today’s technology to apologize. Sometimes, this can be interpreted as not sincere. Keep in mind that sending a text message, instant message or email can be iffy with some.

2 Josh August 24, 2009 at 12:30 am

One thing that I’m working on not apologizing for is when I make a decision to take an action and someone is hurt by it. As in, I’m willing to understand and empathize that the person was hurt unintentionally or in some rarer cases intentionally, but I refuse to apologize for taking an action that I thought appropriate or necessary.

3 senatorrosewater August 24, 2009 at 12:31 am

I agree with Torrey. AoM seems to normally disregard text, email, etc, even while being an exclusively online entity. Granted an email apology may not be as good as a letter, but its a hell of a lot better than nothing.

This was an excellent article overall, and might only have been improved by 2 things; a few examples from art and history, and a section on how to accept an apology like a gentleman.

4 LuceMichael August 24, 2009 at 1:42 am

This is awesome.

5 Khürt L Williams August 24, 2009 at 6:44 am

Be prepared to accept that the apology may not be accepted.

6 Rob DeClercq August 24, 2009 at 8:09 am

I saw the title and my honest first thought was, “I know how/when to apologize.” Quickly did i truly realize that I fall into the “proud” category, especially when its not my fault!

Thank you Torrey, for reminding us that like the txt msg brkup (also refer to comedian song, “Txt Msg Brkup” by Kelly), email apologies are pretty insincere, especially with regards to more personal matters. Email can be used in certain circumstances, such as a public apology where a previous email was the original communication. In short, email is okay but must be used cautiously. Text/IM apologies serve no purpose except to make the recipient more upset.

7 Robert August 24, 2009 at 9:09 am

I disagree with the whole “don’t apologize for everything” business. By doing it most people assume you take deep pride in anything your involved in, and take it personally when things don’t work out… regardless of how much personal responsibility you may actually hold.

Truth is, even if it’s totally unreasonable, if your not sorry for meeting those unreasonable expectations… like most people, I’m going to assume you don’t care… or take pride in what you do and think *much* less of you accordingly. Not because of your failure to meet expectations… *but because you don’t care*.

That said it may be slightly disrespectful to someone else who SHOULD be apologizing when your stepping up and taking responsibility. If they don’t step up… their loss.

8 Cody August 24, 2009 at 9:56 am

Great article. Real men should always be ready to apologize and accept responsibility. Forgiveness is a powerful thing, for all parties involved. Everyone makes mistakes at times and men with character and integrity do what is necessary to make the wrongs right.

I do have to disagree with the portion of the article that advises writing a letter to offer an apology. Personally, I would be offended. Be a man and do what is right whether it is hard or not. You can do anything if you really want to. Ask God to help you.

Philippians 4:13 I can do ALL things through Christ which strengthens me

9 Heather August 24, 2009 at 10:40 am

I was a corporate trainer for many years, so I had the responsibility of helping new hires, who frequently had never been in a corporate environment, become acclimated to our office. One of the main sticking points was how to apologize.

Here were my guidelines in my classes:
1. “I’m sorry” is appropriate for someone’s personal loss, eg death in the family, sick child, wrecked car, dead pet. “I apologize” is for mistakes made in the business environment, eg late report, lost fax, failure to let your boss know, failure to follow policies/procedures, etc.

2. This one you covered: There is a difference between a reason and an excuse. If, whenever you apologize, you always follow it with a but statement, it’s not a valid apology. This depends on your boss, but as a general rule, don’t offer a reason unless asked for one. When offering the reason, think of and offer ways to prevent the problem from happening again. (And “traffic” is never a valid reason, unless it was something major: 100-car pileup, fallen bridge, etc. Traffic is a fact of life and should be planned for. If traffic made you late, you are telling your boss you are a poor planner.)

3. Learn to apologize for situations in which you are 0% at fault. When speaking to someone outside the company, and the company as a whole has let down the client or customer, you are now speaking as the company and so must make the apology of behalf of the company as a whole (even though it was the shipping department and not you who messed up the order.)
3A. And when apologizing to someone outside the company or department, never, ever, ever disparage or blame another department or person. “Oh, I apologize for the shipment being late, but those guys down in the shipping department are really stupid sometimes.” It’s extremely unprofessional. Also, if you start letting outside people think that some people working at your company are stupid, then they will make the short jump to thinking that *all* people at your company are stupid … even you. Keep dirty laundry in-house and deal with it in the appropriate channels. Generally a respectful email to your boss: “I noticed that there may a problem with the shipping process”, NOT “What’s wrong with those shipping people?” Anything in email can and probably will be forwarded, so be always be tactful in writing.

10 Cliff Plymesser August 24, 2009 at 11:00 am

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Romans 12:18. This verse always kicks me in the butt to actually apologize.

Email or texting or whatever is terrible and cowardly way to apologize for major faults. When I get email apologies, I assume that the guy couldn’t put his man pants on and do it in person because he wanted to hide behind a computer (unless of course he comes up to me afterward to apologize in person as well).

11 Ryan August 24, 2009 at 11:21 am

I think a lot of times you really have to think about what you are apologizing for.

Are you apologizing for the act, or are you apologizing for the effect your act had on an individual? They are two very different things.

To use an example of when not to apologize: your beliefs. Let’s say you get in an argument with a friend over the existence of God. You don’t believe, he does. Your friend may be really and truly upset at the conversation, but if you decide to apologize, you need to separate the two, apologizing to the friend for his anger towards you as a result of the conversation, but holding steady in your beliefs.

12 Steven Copley August 24, 2009 at 12:10 pm

I really enjoyed this article. Thanks Brett and Kate!

13 Kevin J Jones August 24, 2009 at 1:01 pm

“How to Forgive Like a Man” would make for a great follow-up to this entry.

14 P August 24, 2009 at 1:43 pm

I think that Americans apologize way too much. There are certain things that you do and an immediate “I’m sorry” comes out. My neighbors and I were having this discussion the other day. Say when you are coming out of a building and the next person coming in is a good deal of distance away and as soon as you let go of the door they run towards it and you say sorry. There is no reason to be sorry. When you say it so often it actually takes the meaning away from the phrase. You say it if you don’t mean it therefor it is insincere!

15 Nik August 24, 2009 at 3:53 pm

@P – I would say that falls outside the scope of this post. It’s pretty clear that those are not real apologies, merely social reflex, like saying “Good. How are you?” when someone asks how you are, even if you were just hit by a truck.

Back on topic:

I am one who has a difficult issuing a good apology. I often apologize when I should apologize, but I am so concerned with explaining myself that my apologies often fall short. Here are a few questions with which I am wrestling:

1) When I want to give a meaningful and sincere apology, should I stop myself from contextualizing it with what my intention was when I screwed up? As an example, let’s say your girl/boyfriend is angry because you made a comment that offended them because it came out wrong or you misunderstood something. If you just say, “I apologize; I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I will work on not saying things like that in the future, etc.” I feel you run the risk of your partner thinking, “You actually meant what I thought you meant, but you’re sorry for saying it to me,” with the end result of you looking heartless. But if you spend too much time trying to explain what you were thinking, that doesn’t really help the situation because you still offended your boy/girlfriend, and they want you to make it better, not explain it away. So where is the line between humanizing your error and trying to dodge the blame by explaining it into a “misunderstanding” and really just apologizing for their hurt feelings and not for your action.

2) Related question: You talk about apologizing when you’re at fault, even if you’re only modestly at fault. I can understand the value of this, but I feel like it sets you up for defeat when you’re dealing with petty people. Is it worth it to be the “better man” if it puts you at a disadvantage at work, say, and probably doesn’t actually help anyone? In further detail: What do you do when you made a mistake at work, but the other party also made a mistake, and really it was a matter of miscommunication. It’s partly everyone’s fault. I feel that many people get by/advance in organizations (private and public alike) by finding someone else to blame. If you offer an apology in this situation, don’t you risk becoming the patsy? If no one else apologizes, you may find yourself taking the whole blame for something in which you played a minor role. Getting back to my first question, do you offer some measure of explanation to alleviate your blame in the matter, or do you just give a blanket apology, “I apologize for missing the deadline, ma’am. I/We will manage our communication better next time.”

Sorry for the tldr. That’s the issue that’s been on my mind. I think I’m just a bit paranoid about being misunderstood or overly blamed in my apologies, especially since some people may see an apology as an admission of guilt without closing the book on the matter (that is, you just gave them permission to blame you for it in the future).

16 Jared August 24, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Well done. It DOES take a REAL man to apologize. Knowing “when,” is key (and that comes from knowing who you are AND knowing who you are not).

When you are being you, AND you are NOT you… it’s time to apologize (perhaps, more to yourself – than anyone else).

17 Brett Mckay August 24, 2009 at 5:39 pm


These are excellent questions. I’m going to mull them over a lot but here are some initial thoughts.

1) I think there’s a difference between excuses and explanations and between mistakes and misunderstandings. If you cheated on someone, or forgot their birthday, or drove their car into a pole, then no explanation is appropriate; even if you were lonely, or stressed or drunk, it doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse.

Now if there’s a misunderstanding or miscommunication then you can explain yourself. It’s almost not really an apology-it’s just communication.

2) I think the important caveat is that we said you only apologize for what you’re actually at fault for, even it’s a small. So if you’re working on a project in which everybody messes up and you apologize for your specific mistakes, I don’t think you’d likely be held accountable for the failure of the whole group. Actually if you apologize for what you screwed up, and nobody else apologizes for anything, usually, the boss think more highly of you because they know that it was more than just your fault and so you look like the responsible person while everyone else looks like cowards.

But if you’re in a leadership position at work, then you should take the whole blame even if it wasn’t directly your fault. Because even if your team messes up, it’s on you as the leader to make sure people are doing their job. And actually this can extend further-shouldn’t we always try to be a leader even if not officially in a authority position?

18 Chris August 24, 2009 at 7:18 pm

How would you suggest apologizing to petty or prideful people? You know, the type that think they’ve “won” if you apologize to them. I see this happen a lot in relationships, where one partner always ends up apologizing to end an argument, while the other never admits any fault. I think it’s noble to apologize regardless of any expectation of an apology in return, but it’s unhealthy for a relationship for one person to be taking the blame for arguments when both partners are at fault. Is there a way to deal with this without involving a third party?

19 Brett Mckay August 24, 2009 at 7:31 pm

I think if someone is in a relationship with a person who never apologizes, then they should probably reevaluate being in that relationship. It’s the kind of thing that would be okay for a few times, but would absolutely ruin a relationship eventually. After all, who wants a relationship with someone who is prideful and petty?

20 Jason Y August 25, 2009 at 8:40 am

Great post! Thanks!

21 Aaron Schnabel August 25, 2009 at 10:14 am

This article touches on something I have been working on recently and actually came in to play this morning. I was a bit of a jerk to my wife and when I apologized I caught myself going “I’m sorry but I just…” I immediately stopped and then just said “I’m sorry” without explaining myself or defending my actions. I have been working on this a lot lately, so it was good to be reminded of the importance of sincerity and brevity in an apology.

22 Living with Balls August 25, 2009 at 11:30 am

This is a good post! Anyone who is married or is in a long-term relationship is probably going to be apologizing a lot. You might as well be prepared for it!

23 Misterfox August 25, 2009 at 11:54 am

It might have been said before in one way or another, but I feel like preaching it again.

If you have ways of apologizing to someone via text-message on the phone, then you also have ways of apologizing to someone via CALLING them on the phone. And that you should do.

I know myself how hard that can be sometimes. But in align with this article (which I found great), it seems more sincere to most people, including me – regardless of whether it actually is or not.

24 Sir Lancelot August 25, 2009 at 12:03 pm

“Never apologize – It’s a sign of weakness”, says John Wayne’s character in The Searchers to one of his junior officers. A bit too extreme…

25 Sergeyka August 26, 2009 at 3:34 am

I agree with this: “Never apologize – It’s a sign of weakness”

26 M August 26, 2009 at 10:09 am

Ok, I agree with this post, but my question is this…how do you apologize to a manly man, a man who thinks that apologies mean nothing…even when you are genuinely sorry?

I try not to make the same mistakes, I try with all my heart, but because I keep making them, keep apologizing for them, he doesnt want to hear them. He has learned through so many sources that apologies mean nothing, its all in action, period. Like I said, I TRY WITH ALL OF MY HEART NOT TO REPEAT THE SAME MISTAKES!!!

Or, I am sorry this or that happens, I am sorry for that person, I am sorry something didnt turn out, NOT TO BE SORRY FOR THEM, but for the way he must feel…is that wrong?

I did something so incredibly stupid, dumb…didnt know what else to do…I did it. I hurt him so much, NOT to be mean!!!!! I didnt know what else to do…now I sit in silence and from my knowledge of his anger, I am letting time work it out, but if he cared, if he loved, wouldnt he want to reach me? I am always saying I am sorry for what ever I did, I am genuinely sorry….I want to write and tell him so again, but do I let HIM cool off first? Do I let time repair this? What do you do when he doesnt beleive in genuine mistakes or apologies? I am at tears and wits end over this. Common sense and my ‘family’ are no help right now, when its’ the man God created him to be that I love beyond words, its his words and actions that I feared so much, I did something dreadfully wrong!

I hope I am making sense, but I truly need to know what to do here….I love him, always have and will, but his whole thought processes have changed that I truly dont know what the right thing is to do, reach him first? Wait for him to reach me??
Well…maybe a never apologize kind of man can respond to me… I would greatly appreciate it.

Thanks for this article.

27 Ryan August 27, 2009 at 12:28 am

I never say “I’m sorry”. I ALWAYS say, “I apologize”. I am not a sorry person.

28 Gaurav August 27, 2009 at 5:26 am

i apologize is better to say i am sorry. Use sorry in extreme condition or even not
use aplogize

29 siouxgeonz August 27, 2009 at 4:11 pm

One sultry day, my two middle school teacher friends and I were dropping a truckload of waste at the dumpster. As we sorted it into the “brush” and “other trash” piles, we heard two men discussing work, and the heat, and one expressed his opinion of decisionmakers in air-conditioned offices in slightly colorful language.
Then he looked over and saw us. He said words to this effect: “I’m very sorry. You did not come here to hear language like that.” And then he went back to what he was doing (without the colorful words).
I realized with some surprise that he had neglected to add “But it was very hot…” or “but our bosses drive us crazy” or … and I realized how often *I* do that when I apologize. Rather, how often I used to — now I only add the excuses if I really, really, really think I need to.

30 siouxgeonz August 27, 2009 at 4:15 pm

To Chris: try “It’s okay, you can win.” Or, apologize anyway, if that’s what their pride needs.

31 Harland August 27, 2009 at 8:14 pm

I loved the article regarding apologies – we are often insincere and proud.

My favorite part of the article was the discussion of humility. What a misunderstood, unappreciated and yet critical trait we often lack. I think of Rudyard Kipling’s great poem “Recessional” written for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. That despite the greatness of the kingdom [man] they recognized the human nature, frailty and dependence on others (or in this case God).

Good post

32 Dreamwalker August 28, 2009 at 7:19 am

Very enlightening…now to figure out how to get my husband to read this. May I refer to this post in my blog?

33 JonEdanger August 28, 2009 at 6:47 pm

Never apologize. It’s a sign of weakness.

-Leroy Jethro Gibbs

34 m August 30, 2009 at 11:19 am

To: JonEdanger
And that is whats become of male thinking…it is NOT a sign of weakness…a sign of weakness is NOT apologizing! Dont you get it? its when you are man enough TO apologize that makes you shine above the rest? Only the women with evil hearts will walk on a guy who apologizes!!! Sometimes, the easiest, best, most awesome relationships thrive, survive and can get through a hurricane that comes against them, by the guy saying he is sincerely sorry/apologize, and she would adore him, I mean, truly adore him for showing his heart….to a good woman, a woman like me….yes, we DO exist….to have my Honey Bear back to know what it means to me, what strength it gives me, oh man…I cannot even put it into words, what those words coming from him does….seriously. Selfish, hurt, pride is the only reason behind a good man not apologizing, and that is only because weak, men have shown him not to.

35 Jinky Williams September 4, 2009 at 4:50 am

I believe there to be a major difference between saying, “I’m sorry” and “I apologize”. This is complimentary to what “P” and a couple others had to say.

Our cultural norm of saying “I’m sorry” as a blanket statement that can either/or imply sorrow and culpability has done us much harm. It simultaneously allows us a “weasel word” to squirm out of accepting responsibility, as well as making us feel blame and guilt for things we have no control over. Yes, sometimes context makes it clear, but often there’s way too much grey area. I had a friend who would say “I’m sorry” for everything, and began to project guilt on themselves for whatever it was they were being sorry for, even for my day at work being adversarial.

So, I strongly urge that we use “sorry” and “I apologize” in proper context. Example: “I’m sorry that you cat died.” This is not an admission of culpability; it’s you expressing sorrow at their loss. Now, if you were the cause of its death (hitting it with a car), you might say, “I apologize for hitting your cat. I am sorry for your loss. What can I do for you?” You’re communicating acknowledgement of your part in the unfortunate occurrence, and additionally stating that you feel sorrow, showing that you care about their well-being and expressing a desire to make things right as much as you are able.

You may well find, as I have, that saying “I apologize” can be much more difficult to say, because there’s no way around the message being conveyed. “I apologize” can’t be mistaken for anything else. But people, I have also found, are generally positively moved when I say that I apologize, instead of “I’m sorry”.

@JonEdanger, Sergeyka: Do we call those strong who live in denial of the truth? Are weasels and snakes now considered men?

@Aaron Schnabel: Good job! Your action is most commendable, and it is something I know I could stand to work on. Just manning up and admitting that you acted in error without trying to make excuses for it is a powerful thing, indeed.

@Ryan: I don’t think you need to apologize at all for the reactions of the other person; tou can’t own that. You can be sorry that they got angry, but you can’t take responsibility for it. They chose how they were going to deal with their emotions. Now, if you said something with the intention of riling them up, *that* is something that needs to be apologized for.

@Chris: That’s a tough situation. As you’ve already said (and I agree with), it is the correct thing to do to continue to apologize when needed, even if the other party has a pattern of not. I also think that Brett hits it on the head in his response: It’s time to re-evaluate the relationship. The people involved are going to need to come to terms, and a frank exchange will need to take place. However, there’s a difference between being “right” and “righteous”. One can be totally in the right, but go about it in a completely dishonorable fashion. Care needs to be taken in this that the heart is understood: That this person earnestly desires that the friendship continues, but there are actions being done that are creating an ever-widening divide.

So, if the other person’s heart changes and they understand what the consequences of their actions has been, you’ve fought for and won an even stronger friendship than what was there, before. And if they choose to deny fault, then it is evident that they are not approaching your friendship with the same care and concern and, as tough as it may be, it is probably for the better that there be some distance between the two parties.

Oh, and great post, B&KM!

36 Ammon September 5, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Excellent post! I know this comment is late, but I’d like to share some useful advice I’ve read and found to be true.

“If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.”
- Dale Carnegie

“You can’t talk your way out of what you’ve behaved yourself into.”
- Stephen R. Covey

“1) A bad apology is worse than no apology
2) Apologies are not “pass”"fail”
3) When giving an apology, any performance lower than an “A” really doesn’t cut it”
- Randy Pausch

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38 kamilah September 22, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Awesome article! My ex and I broke our engagement and there were wrongs on both sides. I apologized for my part in it all (especially giving his ring back), but came to realize he refused to acknowledge or apologize for anything (especially not talking to me for a month!). I think he is one who finds weakness in apology. Tragic, really.

39 Filipina Girl September 30, 2009 at 3:33 am

I appreciate and admire more if a man apologizes for the mistakes he have done. You know have the courage to admit his mistakes and not be overruled of his pride, status and anger. It takes a man enough to admit his wrongdoings.

Thanks for sharing this awesome entry.

40 Scott October 18, 2009 at 9:54 pm

WOW and Thanks! Been stuck on this for quite some time.

Even when it’s not fully your fault. There is a breed of man who will not apologize unless he feels 100% at fault for something. “But it’s not my fault!” is his battle cry. He’s not at fault for throwing away an important document at work because no one specifically told him to hold onto it. He’s not at fault for hurting his girlfriend’s feelings because she shouldn’t have been listening to his conversation with his friends.

41 GlutenFreeDee October 28, 2009 at 2:12 am

I’m blown away by the magnitude of this blog and what you are up to here! I’m a recovering Women’s Libber who hated men because of all the hurt they had caused in my life. For a variety of reasons, I can now see good men. I’m concerned about the state of men in our culture. I recently asked @BillCosby thru Twitter how we could empower boys to become the kind of men we need. You are doing that here. Thank you for being world changers. I applaud your courage. I will spread the word about what you are doing. If there is anything else I can do to help, please let me know.

Dee Valdez

42 5% October 28, 2009 at 1:18 pm

First of, love the article. Thank you. I wish more people would just own up to what they did. My HS drama teacher used to say, “Don’t be sorry, just be done.” Apologize and shut up – leave out the explanations.

I’m a little appalled at the comments that focus so much on the other person involved in the apology – such as Nik, who wants to control what the other person is thinking, or Chris, who doesn’t want to apologize to petty or prideful people. Stop thinking so much about yourselves and how you appear in the conversation or if you’re “losing” – the point is that YOU FUCKED UP and you want to make it right. Reading these comments made me realize why there would be a need for a blog about the ‘Art of Manliness.’

43 Andrew October 28, 2009 at 9:38 pm

Thanks for a great article. I am in need of putting together an apology for work. We had an issue today that I feel I need to apologize for and am sitting here wondering what I should or should not say. So, this article came at the right ime. I will use the suggestions from here and do it tomorrow (10-29-09). Thanks again for a very useful article.

44 switchGirl October 29, 2009 at 2:37 pm

I loved this article. It helped me as a women and I have definite pride issues myself when it comes to apologizing.

I want to ask how to deal with the apology when its demanded. In this situation, when a man demands an apology from me, I often feel very defensive and somewhat afraid and find it hard to be sincere. Its intimidating to say the least and just talking to the person seems scary. I think that sometimes men don’t realize that their size and boisterousness may come off a bit more severe then they intend and then don’t understand when they’ve clearly asked for an apology and don’t seem to get one. This happen to any of you? Suggestions?

45 Noble Ese November 3, 2009 at 1:20 pm

It all boils down to one thing,PRIDE.It is the most deadly and sordid human trait.It is pride that makes us not to apologise or own up to our mistakes.It is pride that makes us not take correction or advice.It doesn’t matter what we say on this blog,If we do not try to work on ourselves concerning it,it will destroy every relationship we have formed with our family,friends,bosses or our spouses.

46 Katie Lawrence December 8, 2009 at 7:25 pm

This was a great article. It helped me as a female to understand what a guy thinks regarding this subject. I think it takes a true man to actually make a sincere apology. Sometimes it is all a woman wants is a SINCERE apology.. that means telling a woman you were indeed wrong. :)

47 Hemm Tim March 15, 2010 at 2:38 pm

It’s better to eat humble pie than crow! It taste better.

48 jo-belle April 4, 2010 at 3:15 am

As a woman what I appreciate when something has gone awry and an apology is warranted:

1. In person where able, by phone if not and never by text or email. Its just rude and compounds the offence. Text and email are delaying and distancing tactics, start the process as soon as the matter is brought to your attention. Resolution is good.

2. Reparation, reparation, reparation. The first step in reparation is being present in your apology ie in person or by phone. It indicates a willingness to face up to the problem. The second step is to offer, your time, a solution, a talk, another date, whatever is necessary to get both of you to a happier place. Give the other person time to process what you have said and come back to you. Thirdly, acknowledge: I stuffed up.

Anything less than this implies that your really just not that interested in resolving the situation or in the other persons feelings.

49 Dan K May 19, 2010 at 2:09 am

I don’t know if this is a dead thread, but I have a question on a particular situation with apologizing to a person at work. I’m in college and work a summer job at a professional office, and 1 point last summer I just made a really dumb mistake that the “office manager” had saw me do that I felt like an idiot for, and feel like she still remembers the moment and that she still has lost a level of trust in me for it (not completely sure but have a strong hunch). She is not the boss per se, but the one who pretty much monitors my work and who I report to. I started working again this week, and the dumb mistake I made still bothers me–is it too late to apologize for what I did? Worried that she possibly has forgotten about it and reminding reminding her may be a mistake, or that it is so late that an apology holds no meaning but also feel like it may show her that I recognize my mistake and that she would know that I would not let it happen again.
Any advice?

50 Ryan May 27, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Dan K – I think it’s time to let go, but if it’s eating you up then come clean.

I think everyone should read this article. I’m tired of celebrities and politicians saying they apologize if anyone was offended or hurt by their actions. That isn’t an apology.

51 Again June 11, 2010 at 6:41 pm

I have a guy at work who I apologized to for raising my voice. He was very abrupt with me and that is the reason why I raised my voice at him. I apologized and he accepted it and then refused to apologize (I didn’t ask him to). It absolutely blows my mind that people are so petty. I even prefaced our conversation with telling him that even though we had a misunderstanding, that I respect him as a professional and that it was important that I came clean about handling it wrong but still he took it as an opportunity to take the upper hand and put in a few nasty remarks, then refuse to apologize. Un-real.

52 Jimmy Johnson June 29, 2010 at 6:06 am

If the event is important enough, a verbal apology isn’t enough. It requires action.

An apology may set the relationship on a better course, but if the person is truely sorry, he or she shows it by doing things that are meaningful to the trangressed person. ie) cook a special dinner, buy a meaningful gift, or do something that is important that is relevant to the initial apology, etc..

An apology is simply a gesture of reconciliation. It’s meaningless if it isn’t accepted.

53 roger h July 5, 2010 at 3:34 pm

thank you for this post, the post echoes what my wife has told me every time we have a dispute and i never back down. some people call it being “hard headed” but hard headed is no excuse when it comes to a relationship and heartfelt feelings. i will think of this article when we engage with my mistakes.

54 Pam Babbitt, Founder - August 2, 2010 at 3:31 pm

What a great article. There is such [manly] strength in apologizing, just as there is strength in surrendering. It is unfortunate, though, that today many apologies are offered via the internet. A face-to-face (I really mean eye-to-eye) apology shows more courage, heart and respect.

55 DD August 6, 2010 at 9:21 pm

By far, a face-to-face, eye-to-eye apology is most greatly appreciated and respected when speaking to a woman. It does show great strength and courage; not to mention, the kind of respect for women that is mostly desired by women in a man, Furthermore; it is by no means a belittlement to the man to admit to his mistakes, because there exist an unspoken promise that a wise, healthy-minded man will always learn from his mistakes and move forward with his personal integrity. What could be SEXIER than that?!?

56 steve August 15, 2010 at 3:20 pm

I failed my girlfriend in everyway imaginable,she has since called it qiuts, not answering my call ect. In time we spent together i have grown to love her but didn’t tell her,,all want is a second chance to show her the real me, my situation is pretty serious her being a strong minded young lady..I feel her mind is made up but im hoping time will heal or defuse the crappy stuff i have done or the stuff i didnt do..Can somebody offer some advice on how to break thru to a stubborn strong minded woman..

57 jo October 14, 2012 at 4:46 pm

apology makes the world more happier

58 Briellen October 24, 2012 at 4:09 pm

I love my boyfriend to death and he is almost always super sweet…but the times I do feel hurt by him he will never apologize, I am always always on the apologizing end. I am fine with saying it even if I don’t feel I am in the wrong cause I want things smoothed over but I do feel like there is some “secret” mans rule to not apologizing…I grew up with my parents apologizing to eachother so now I am in shock when he won’t ….I ask him why and he won’t answer and says he does not apologize…but like I said other than that he is always super sweet and kind and loving…I just don’t get the apology thing. I tell him how it makes me feel and I almost wonder if he just shoves it away thinking I am exaggerating.

59 Sarah October 31, 2012 at 8:11 pm

I know this is a guys website but I was texting my boyfriend and he was using his moms phone and I didnt know and I cussed a couple times and later recieved a text from his mother saying ‘Nice mouth! This is his mother’ and I have no idea how to respond to that.

60 BigTaru November 30, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Am in a relationship with a girl Ψho happen to be a Doctor,folks shε is so unkept in a sense that i took it upon myself to always fix her.but that was thε genesis of our misunderstanding.shε dislike corrections.lastly shε send me an sms saying I am tired of your arrogant controlling ways, of you not listening to a word I say, of you not respecting my time and of your constant insulting and denigrating criticism. I am sick of you and the way you make me feel and I hate myself for the depths I have sunk to because of loneliness.i pleaded with her and show her how sorry i am,buh shε is not ready to take me back.please Ψhat should i do?

61 Tyler January 28, 2013 at 10:56 pm

I’m a Junior in Highschool and today on the way home I was driving behind one of the buses, (filled with mostly freshman/sophomores some juniors/seniors), got t-boned and flew on the sidewalk and into the gravel by a freeway entrance. A friend and i were talking over facebook about the accident and a girl that I like saw the comments. The comments really upset this girl. Is there anyway that any of you guys can help me out. It is going to really upset me if I have already dug a hole so deep I can’t get out of it. I am going to talk to this girl tomorrow, but I honestly can not think of any way to apologize to this girl. Please help…. Anybody. I would really appreciate it.

62 tawny March 23, 2013 at 7:45 am

Pride most definitely is a factor. I think my ex has alot of pride. ANytime I’d point out if he was disrespectful or unfair to me, he’d get mad and clam up or walk away with a sour face. Then if we try to talk about it, he would bring up something about me from the past or tangent onto something about me….it was like he was shifting the blame onto me to relieve himself. It felt like a defense mechanism to lash back for hurting his ego or pride whenever I’d say he hurt my feelings or did something offensive towards me.

He also used to do the “I’m sorry BUT” deal. It totally made me feel like he was just trying to justify his wrongdoing towards me when the apology was immediately followed with a BUT.
I was guilty of apologizing just to bring peace to the moment. But I know now this was wrong because it set the tone to where he ended up expecting me to be the peacemaker all the time.

I believe it doesn’t come naturally for people to apologize. But I feel its something that should be learned and practiced thru out life. When pride gets in the way, it blocks off the open mindness, empathy, respect, and care for anyone but themselves.

63 ben m April 27, 2013 at 9:06 pm

I like it it ALL makes sense to me im going to apologize to my wife right now and pledge to change my my behivor i love her so much and i feel bad when i make her sad but i dont want to be a little weenie there are some good tips here to solve some of the problems i had with apologizing . thank you

64 jim f May 6, 2013 at 8:42 am

This is an awesome article. I like the point that you have to accept your imperfection as part of life. Embracing it will allow you to grow while suppressing it will cut you off from others. Also, not using words like, “I’m sorry, but…” is like making excuses. That’s not an apology. Own up for what you did. Very well written.

65 ll May 21, 2013 at 3:53 am

I am contemplating divorce from my husband of 12 years because I can no longer take his attitude that he’s always blameless and right, resorting to pretzel-like logic to blame me instead for things that go wrong, even when I had little to do with them. It is simply unbearable….and he’s wired such that he sees a completely different reality, even when I lay out the facts and points of the matter. He simply needs a spouse who will let him vend his frustrations and blame his mistakes on, because he isn’t man enough to admit them.

I have given up all hope…I’m simply not the kind of submissive female. I’m rational, intelligent, and I have some dignity. If it’s my mistake, I apologize, remedy it and quickly make amends. This is only fair to those who suffered from my errors. Sadly, my man is not man enough to do this.

66 Dominica July 24, 2013 at 9:59 pm

what if I give an apology take responsibility for my actions follow all the rules fix the problem. And my boss keeps telling me that is not enough? What should I do then? Do I walk away or do I just sit there and keep taking the 50 lashes? When is it enough?

67 Ufeitugo theodore August 27, 2013 at 3:19 pm

My girl friend thinks that she right at anytime she want me to give her an apology. what can i do

68 mona September 24, 2013 at 5:25 pm

two apologies i loathe, the last minute before he goes to work so he can focus apology and the “I’m sorry I yelled” apology.

69 chuck October 16, 2013 at 12:48 am

I think the last bit was one of the most valub l e things I’ve learned in life. Apologize, and mean it, then move on. When you apologize repeatedly you look like a fool.

70 Cebuanas February 14, 2014 at 9:31 am

I agree if you apologise more than once then it makes it sound not as genuine. It is best to say you are sorry and give your full heart when saying it the first time and then put the past in the past.

71 DateInAsia February 16, 2014 at 1:06 am

Some people will say to never apologize. It’s a sign of weakness. BUT in all my experience around Asian Women I can say that a simple apology is all that is required sometimes.

I can not speak for western women but when an Asian women is upset you really do have to be the bigger man and give up your pride and say sorry. Of course you only need to do this once as I agree with the above that if you say sorry to much it does eliminate the meaning and truth behind the first time you say it.

72 Pina Love February 19, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Saying sorry makes the world a better place. We all want to live in a better world right? Great read .. thanks :)

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