Mistakes often made when expressing remorse. 

By Real Simple
Updated April 13, 2016
Christopher Silas Neal
Christopher Silas Neal

Apologizing by Text or E-mail

As a rule, in-person apologies are most effective. The other person can hear your tone of voice and read your body language—no crossed arms!—as proof of your sincerity. Plus, you have the chance to listen to her side. It’s fine to send a text that says, “Boy, was I a jerk! Can I take you out for a coffee and apologize?” An exception may be if the person won’t see you or if you have a lot to explain and want to write it down in a letter so you don’t forget anything. (In that case, consider reading it out loud to her rather than mailing it.)

Making Excuses (to Justify Your Mistake)

Avoid peppering your apology with “but’s” that prevent you from taking responsibility: “I’m sorry I blew up, but you really struck a nerve when you criticized my parenting.”

Apologizing When You Don’t Really Mean It

A false apology benefits no one, says Lauren Bloom, an interfaith minister, an attorney, and the author of The Art of the Apology. If you told your brother that his wife is a meddling know-it-all, don’t apologize if you can’t do it sincerely (that is, his wife really is a meddling know-it-all, and you haven’t changed your mind). Rather, apologize for the piece of conflict that you do regret. Say to him, “I’m so sorry I said that to you. I love you, and I was way out of line telling you that about Lisa.”

Saying “I’m Sorry You Feel That Way”

Translation: You are way too sensitive. You are just shifting the blame away from you and onto the victim.

Expecting an Instant Fix

It may take the other person time to process her feelings, so don’t end with “I’m glad this is behind us” or “Now we can make the past the past,” says Jennifer Thomas, Ph.D., a psychologist in North Carolina and a coauthor of When Sorry Isn’t Enough.