How To Be Truly Terrible At Apologizing

Photo: HBRH /
exasperated woman holding a phone

You and your partner bickered and the argument lingers unresolved. Maybe you were late to your anniversary dinner or — worse — forgot your anniversary completely.

At best your partner is unimpressed by your behavior and at worst they're extremely unhappy with you.

Somehow, it seems that an expression of regret is expected of you. It wasn’t your fault and yet you’ve got to pony up an apology. 

If you're going to have to say you're sorry, you might as well give a bad apology, right? Luckily, I've got some great examples of how to do this!

RELATED: What Taking The High Road Means & Why It Doesn't Always Work

Instead of relying on the simple, dull "sorry" or bypassing blame with "I made a mistake — everyone makes mistakes", try these tips to give an unforgettable, apologetic errors.

Nine things to do when you're committed to truly bad apologies 

(Hint: these are things you should not do if you want to actually make a repair and rebuild trust!)

1. Don't wait to calm down.

Instead, once your partner finishes expressing their feelings (or takes a breath before continuing), throw yourself immediately into your apology. There’s no time like the present to address all outstanding issues between you.

Accusations — yours and theirs — flung in the heat of the moment are likely to reveal the bitter truth between you.

RELATED: How To Get (Pretty Much) Anything You Want From Your Partner

2. Don't be specific about what you’re apologizing for.

Instead, be vague — like horseshoes and hand grenades, a “close enough” apology is a good enough apology.

You may not even be sure what you should be apologizing for. If you’re specific, you might apologize for the wrong thing and rejuvenate long-gone arguments.

3. Don't accept any responsibility for the upset.

Instead, pretend that all the upset belongs to your partner. You’re not upset by what happened. Acknowledge only your anger, hurt, and distress when you apologize.

Never forget that you are the injured party here. After all, it's painful to say "I'm sorry" and they should say they're sorry for you having to say you're sorry.

Make sure that your partner knows this.

RELATED: 32 Ways To Improve Your Relationship After Your An Arguement With Your Partner

4. Don't accept any responsibility for your partner’s upset.

Instead, lay the blame at your partner’s feet.

After all, if your partner weren’t so sensitive, whatever happened would not be a problem at all. It wasn’t your fault and, truthfully, your partner’s expectations are outrageously high. Remember, turning the blame is key to bad apologies.

5. Don't offer any means of avoiding similar circumstances.

Instead, explain that the circumstances now were unavoidable and will likely be unavoidable in the future. If pressed for further explanation, explain that you cannot predict the future and so you cannot predict means of avoiding this argument again.

RELATED: Why Even Couples In Happy, Healthy Relationships Argue (And How They Do It The Right Way)

6. Don't discuss further once your partner gives in.

Instead, be satisfied that you have made your position clear. There’s no need to gloat about this victory of yours. Your partner knows that they were wrong and that you are the party who was wronged.

Once you’ve won the argument, accept your partner’s resignation.

7. Don't ask for forgiveness.

Instead, grab the moral high ground of “I am right and you are wrong” with as little smugness as you can manage. And, if you do feel the need to hear a statement of forgiveness, demand it immediately.

You have played your part — issued a grand apology — and now the “apology ball” is in your partner’s court. If your partner wants to continue in a relationship with you, they need to put that ball back into action.

RELATED: 6 Ways Great Husbands Make Their Wives Feel Loved & Protected

8. When all else fails, tell your partner what they want to hear.

If your partner doesn’t accept your apology and you’re still willing to continue in this relationship, tell them what they want to hear. Your honest apology hasn’t worked, so there must be some problem with your partner.

The only remaining choice is to tell your partner what they want to hear. You may have to do a little guessing but this is the failsafe bottom line.

9. Choose being right over being happy.

Anybody can be happy — being happy is a matter of choice. On the other hand, not everybody can be right. And being right puts you on the side of angels.

Go there and cast your partner out of the Garden of Eden you so generously opened to them.

RELATED: 90 Forgiveness Quotes To Help You Let Go And Move On

The techniques outlined above can be applied not only to arguments but also to any instance where you “should” to apologize. It could be any stupid childhood argument with a parent or sibling.

 It could be any misunderstanding with a boss or coworker: “This report wasn’t finished on time. How could you misunderstand the importance of this deadline?”

It could be with a neighbor who doesn’t like the way you put out your trash on collection day —“Your trash belongs in front of your house, not mine!”

It could be in the china shop where you accidently smashed Murano glass. “Oops, your shop aisles are too narrow.”

The possibilities of “how not to apologize” are endless. Go for that grandiose and mucky result ... or choose to be happy.

RELATED: 8 Ways To Calm A Man Down When He's Angry & Defensive

Susan Kulakowski, MA/MBA is a writer pursuing personal and professional development since 2017.