Time to be an Adult… Learn How to Say You’re Sorry

By K. Stone

November 1, 2007   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Does this ever happen to you? You did something wrong. You feel like a schmuck. But you don’t know how to fix it!

    • Maybe you yelled at your child because they weren’t moving fast enough, but the real problem was that you were late because of your lack of planning. You took your frustration on your child and that wasn’t fair.


  • Maybe you let your emotions get the best of you in a business setting and you’ve said some things that you now regret. Or maybe you still feel they were right, but just not appropriate to say out loud.



  • Maybe you turned a small annoyance into a full blown fight with your spouse right before dinner because you are really frustrated about some bigger issue that may or may not have to do with him or her.



  • Maybe you dropped the ball on something important because you didn’t plan well. First inclination? Is there someone or something else to blame? Ever done that?


In each of these cases, you know you should apologize but you either don’t know how or you can’t bring yourself to do it. This happens to all of us. Sometimes you’re feeling so hot under the collar or maybe so shameful, it’s hard to say the words. What to do?

How to Say You’re Sorry

1. Space
. Give yourself some space and time from the situation. Wait until some of that hot emotion, whether anger or shame, has cooled a bit. When you’ve cooled a bit, try to think about things from an outsider’s perspective. Maybe others share some blame, maybe circumstances made things difficult, but ultimately take a look at your part. What could you have done better?

2. Listen. There’s a quiet calm voice in your head that is telling what the right thing to do is. You can even hear it while another voice is raging. You know what I’m talking about. Here’s how it might sound:

“You know you exploded on that person because you’re frustrated about something else.”
“I don’t care! I’m so angry I could bust!”
“You know that wasn’t right. You wouldn’t want to be treated that way either.”
“But I’m sooo angry. And now I made such a fool of myself. This is a big unfixable mess now!”
“You can fix it. When you’re ready, say you’re sorry. You can do it.”
“You’re right little voice. Arg. Why won’t you just go away!”
“Because you know you’ll feel better if you do the right thing and apologize.”

So listen to that little voice. As your emotion cools you’ll be able to say sorry.

3. Say It. Here’s the simple part. When you’re ready, just humble yourself and say you’re sorry. Don’t wait until you feel really good about it because that never happens. It’s kind of like jumping into a cold pool. You just have to jump in. At first the water is cold, but then you get used to it and you’re glad you did it. Why don’t we say sorry when we should? Because it smarts. It feels like you’re admitting failure. Instead take the “learning experience” approach. You’re apologizing and learning.

4. Make It a Habit. The more you train yourself to swallow your pride, be vulnerable, and give a genuine apology when appropriate, the easier it will get. Just do it!

5. Learn. While you’re at it, try to examine whether you see some patterns in your life that you need to apologize for over and over. See if you can figure out a way to fail-proof that from happening again in the future.

When was the last time you needed to say you were sorry? What happened and how did you feel? We’d love to hear your story!

Written for Dumb Little Man by K. Stone, author of Life Learning Today, a blog about daily life improvements. Popular articles are How to Write a Book in 60 Days or Less and How to Be a Great Salesperson.

K. Stone

Getting Started with Forex

Other Dating Guide

Individual Reviews