Apologizing is never a fun task, but it is one that strengthens a relationship. It takes humility to admit to another person that you were wrong and to ask them to forgive you. We all make mistakes and say things we wish we could take back or do things we wish we could undo. Whenever that happens, we need to immediately seek forgiveness from the person we have hurt.
So follow the three As of a true apology next time you need to make things right with someone in your life: acknowledge, ask, and act.
Acknowledge What You Did Wrong
The first A in a true apology is to acknowledge. Acknowledge what you did wrong without making any excuses. And that means no “buts!” I can’t tell you how many times when I’ve spoken to my wife that I have an excuse or a “but” embedded in my apology. I’ve said to my wife, “Susan, you know what? I was wrong to talk to you like that, but if you would’ve just done what I asked you to do, I wouldn’t have gotten so mad.” That’s the wrong way to apologize. Shifting or sharing the blame does not demonstrate humility and will only make things worse.
Ask for Forgiveness
The second A is to ask for forgiveness. Once you have acknowledged that you were wrong, ask for forgiveness without any conditions at all—not even the expectation that the other person will forgive you. Focus on your own responsibility in the matter, not anyone else’s. Say this: “I was wrong, please forgive me.” Period. Nothing added to it.
The third and final A in asking for forgiveness is to take action. Take action and commit to that person that it will not happen again—and then make sure it doesn’t. This is what makes apologizing and asking for forgiveness effective. Our actions and attitudes need to speak as loudly as our words. If we keep making the same mistake over and over again, our apologies will start to ring hollow. It’s up to you to change and grow, both for the other person’s sake and for your own.
So now you know the three As of a true apology: acknowledge what you did wrong, sincerely ask for forgiveness, and take action to change.
Remember that even if the other person does accept your apology and grants forgiveness, you can’t expect things to be better right away. Again, your apology needs to be given without expectations on the other person. They may get over small things quickly, but it can take time for someone to warm up to you again if they feel wronged. Just because someone forgives you does not mean that they immediately trust you. Trust must be earned. So be patient and focus on your own growth. Time will show that you are changing and are sincere about not wanting to hurt the person again.
If someone has wronged you and you are struggling to forgive them, you may want to read this post about how to forgive: Forgiveness: It’s Not What You Think