How To Know When You Should (And Shouldn't) Apologize

Apology accepted?

woman apologizing to her boyfriend while sitting on the couch Goksi / Shutterstock

Apologies are hard, especially when you feel like you aren't in the wrong. You may have said some things that you now realize were hurtful, but what if you meant every word you said?

Deciding whether to apologize can be tough. It's even harder to say sorry when you're a stubborn or hard-headed person. I'm here to tell you to put your ego aside, and do the right thing.

Should I apologize if I don't mean it?

Maybe the other person owes you an apology too; regardless, you should say "I'm sorry." Apologies clear the air and take the burden off your shoulders. If you do your part and sincerely apologize, and they don't accept it, then that's on them now.


Keep in mind that the way they perceive the situation, whatever it may be, is likely different from how you perceive it, so you may have two genuinely different, but equally real emotional justifications, for the way you feel. Ever notice how two of your friends might have a fight with each other, and when each one of them tells you their respective account of what happened, it's totally different from the other person's story?

Even a key detail or two can completely change how one might assume the motivations or intentions behind the actions of the other individual in a way that completely changes how one might interpret the meaning of what really happened, and whether anything truly hurtful was meant on either side, at least to begin with. But we aren't mind readers.


When you think about it, many disagreements — and even knockdown, drag-out fights — can simply begin as a misunderstanding. A single miscommunication. That's all it takes to get to the bottom of it.

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But the parties involved spend so much time and energy being angry and slinging shots at the other side that they completely lose sight of this, and a single apology (that you may not exactly mean, but takes into account the fact that both of you might actually be wrong about what happened from the start) is all it takes to return to having a harmonious relationship together.


Here are some reasons why you should apologize, even if you meant what you said and did. If you meant it, you should still apologize for hurting the person's feelings.

1. Your words and actions can hurt other people, even if you didn't mean for them to.

In the moment, you might say or do something without thinking. Depending on the situation, you could have hurt someone unintentionally in the heat of the moment, or you might have been waiting to say a few choice words to them for a while. Regardless, you spoke your truth and probably feel relieved in a way, but you may have forgotten to take into account how the other person feels.

People's feelings can get hurt easily and maybe it's not what you said, but how you said it. For example, psychology graduate students Boaz Keysar and Anne Henly did a study with 40 pairs of speakers and listeners to show how great the potential is for day-to-day misunderstandings. The study showed that nearly half the time someone thought they were being understood, they actually were not.

So, be aware of what you're saying and how you're saying it and know that you run the possibility of being misunderstood. It's important to have a talk with the person that you hurt and further explain what you meant by what you said. Communication is key in all relationships!


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2. Apologizing helps you let go of the grudges that are eating away at you.

It's never good to hold anger in your heart. Negative energy is always bad energy and by holding grudges, you're allowing a cloud of negativity to hang over your head. You need to release that bad energy and let go of the grudge you have once and for all.

Not only do grudges affect your well-being, but they can also affect your health and longevity. According to one study that was published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers who analyzed the daily responses of people who experienced anger, stress, and other "intense high-arousal negative emotions" found that these people also tended to have higher blood pressure and heart rate, negatively affecting their physical health.

Another study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, had similar findings, though they also concluded that these reactions, like those involved with holding grudges, can cause your mental health and ability to process information to deteriorate more quickly, around the midlife stage.


One way to let go of a grudge is to apologize. If you truly meant what you said to the person, ask how it made them feel and apologize for the way you hurt their feelings. Then, explain why you said what you did and try to have a conversation with them about how they make you feel. No matter what, if there is a way to, you should always try and resolve the conflict. You'll feel a weight lifted off your shoulders.

RELATED: 11 Examples of Insincere Or Fake Apologies And How To Respond

3. It's good for you, too.

Find it in your heart to apologize; if not for them, do it for you. If you don't plan on maintaining a relationship with the person you had a confrontation with, the apology will allow you to move on and let go of the past and that person completely.

The apology could either be closure for you or a new page in your friendship/relationship with the other person.


RELATED: Couples, Never Fight About A Miscommunication Again (Here’s How)

4. It gives you a chance for a fresh start.

Many times, apologies allow for a fresh start. It's always awkward after you did something or someone did something to you that was hurtful. The other person waits for an apology and until it happens, there's tension, weird feelings and some bad blood. An apology is the first step to a conversation that needs to be had, but one that both parties might be dreading.

When someone apologizes, it shows that they care. They're sorry that they negatively affected you in some way and it also shows a level of maturity. Apologies are the time to be heartfelt and share your feelings with each other.


It's the time to decide what to do about the situation and the relationship/friendship. Whether you decide to stay close or go your separate ways, it's still a fresh start. By apologizing, you're showing respect and you can finally move on from the situation.

RELATED: 5 Reasons Your Man Never Says 'I'm Sorry,' According To Science

Lauren Margolis is a writer who covers astrology, pop culture, entertainment news, and relationships. ​