How to accept an apology from a coworker

How to accept an apology from a coworker

Has anyone ever said anything to you at work that was really hurtful or snarky? It’s an experience we can all relate to. Sometimes it’s an intentional slight or power-play. But here’s the thing. More often, it’s an unplanned quip and your colleague wishes they could take it back. There are a couple of different ways you can go when this happens. Personally, I advise going the civilized route—if they apologize, accept. Accepting apologies at work is a good “people equation” skill to master because it maintains relationships and enhances your professionalism.

Professionals Accept Apologies Graciously

If you act graciously when you’re on the receiving end of a colleague’s blunder, you maintain your professionalism. I’m not talking about allowing someone to treat you poorly — such as intentional snide comments, tirades or any form of workplace bullying. That’s a different topic altogether and not acceptable behavior. Period.

No, I’m talking about those times when someone tried to be funny, but wasn’t. Or, their attempt at edgy repartee came out sounding mean. Or any number of other things that get said in the workplace by a decent person who contracted a temporary case of foot-in-mouth disease.

It happens. They’re mortified. You’re caught off guard. If you can manage a gracious response then you will have succeeded in stopping what could turn into resentment between you and your colleague. And let’s be honest. Have you ever seen a grudge match that turns out well?

Granting Forgiveness is Good for You

Accepting an apology goes beyond graciousness and professionalism. When you extend forgiveness, you help repair a potential rift in your relationship. And, you’ve helped preserve another person’s dignity. Moreover, research shows that there are benefits to forgiving someone. According to the Mayo Clinic, letting go of grudges can help you reduce stress, lower your blood pressure and improve your immune system. So consider “letting it go” and acknowledging their apology. Who knew that a simple “I accept your apology” may have health benefits for you as well?

Examples of How to Accept an Apology at Work

Professional responses might include:

  • “I know you didn’t mean to be hurtful. I accept your apology.”
  • “It’s OK. We all have those days once in a while.”
  • “I understand. You’re angry at the situation, not at me.”
  • “You seem really irritated about this. Should we take a break and discuss it later?”

It takes courage for the offending speaker to publicly acknowledge the transgression. Tempting as it might be to poke back, resist. Take the high road. Accept the apology — and mean it. After all, wouldn’t you hope they’d do the same for you?

How to accept an apology from a coworker

Have you ever made a very big, very expensive mistake at work? Or dropped the ball in a major way? Or said something offensive? Snapped at one of your colleagues? Left one of your clients hanging? Treated one of your employees unfairly?

I’m gonna go ahead and raise my hand here. Because I know I’ve done some of that stuff.

We’re human, even at work. Which means that every now and again we’re going to screw up. When that happens (and it will) apologize and do better next time. Not sure how to stumble through an apology at work? (Because…um, hello awkward!) Here’s how to get it right…

1. Apologize. Don’t give excuses.

Have you ever heard that quote, “never ruin an apology with an excuse”? It’s a good one. Get to know the difference between apologies and their ugly stepsisters, excuses. An apology does two things 1) expresses responsibility, which means fessing up to doing something wrong; and 2) demonstrates remorse for having done so.

An excuse admits no wrongdoing and expresses no remorse, and it’s only going to piss off the person you’ve wronged. Admitting your wrongdoing and expressing remorse is the way to go. Expressing humility puts you in a vulnerable position, but it does wonders for relationship maintenance.

2. Don’t apologize if you don’t mean it.

If you can’t say why you were wrong you probably don’t mean it. Have you ever been in an argument with a romantic partner only to have the person you’re arguing with suddenly say “sorry”, hoping to sweep the issue under the carpet? This is transparent, infuriating, and obviously just a ploy to avoid an uncomfortable conversation.

A misplaced “sorry” stings even more when it’s said sarcastically. If you want your sparring partner dig in their heels I recommend you try this. People can tell if you say sorry without meaning it. Don’t do it. If you’re not sorry you need to stand your ground and say so. Never say sorry just to shut someone up.

3. Be clear.

Say what you did wrong and express regret – these are the two ingredients of a good apology. Don’t give the willy nilly and often used phrase “I’m sorry you feel that way” unless you want to get throat punched or see someone flip a table.

“I’m sorry you feel that way” is a passive-aggressive non-apology, turning the responsibility right back to the offended individual. For an apology to be effective you have to own up to your wrongdoing.

If the situation is complicated, you should be clear on what you are and aren’t apologizing for. You don’t need to take the blame for everything if you’re not responsible for everything.

4. Apologize. Then listen.

People think of apologies as one-sided events, but it takes two. A good apology allows the offended individual an opportunity to seek clarity or express anger.

People hold on to frustration and anger when they’re offended. An apology opens the door (and in some cases the floodgates) for someone to finally express how they feel.

When you offer an apology you should allow for the other person to also express themselves. Your apology may or may not be accepted right away. Which brings me to the next point…

5. No strings attached.

An apology is not authentic if there are strings attached. In other words, you can’t demand forgiveness. Of course, when apologizing you hope to be forgiven, but an apology isn’t about you. It’s about making things right and expressing remorse.

Don’t make your apology about you and your need to be absolved of your sins. Apologizing just to smooth things over or to feel accepted again is a hollow act. You’ll likely be forgiven in time, but it’s not about you right now. Remember that.

6. Do it in person.

This isn’t always necessary, but the bigger the offense the better it is to apologize in person. This gives everybody an opportunity to express themselves fully and hear each other out. The wronged person may need to seek clarity or express things from their perspective, and you owe them that. After all, this is about making things right.

Writing an apology email from a safe distance will seem appealing, but if you feel you really owe someone an apology do it in person. And don’t even think about sending an apology in a text message. Seriously, put down your phone.

How to accept an apology from a coworker

It should be simple. But there are many ways to screw up a perfectly good apology.

There is the over-apology — as if saying “I’m really, really sorry” carries more weight. There is the knee-jerk, insincere “sorry!” that does not ring true. Perhaps the worst is the non-apology, which begins “I’m sorry, but….” and ends with a finger pointing at someone else.

Public figures — politicians and business leaders — are especially adept at this. We see these kinds of apologies in the news all the time. But misguided contrition is better than none at all. Right? I do not think so. The issue is that when a person issues a perfunctory apology, they rarely own the fact that they were wrong. You end up with a sorry excuse for a “sorry” — something like what I described above — delivered with minimum effort. Bad medicine.

We all screw up sometimes. It is part of working on challenging tasks and working closely with other people. If you care about the work, you will inevitably butt heads, make a wrong move, or offend a colleague. And in those cases, I think we should apologize for our goofs, gaffes, and mistakes — especially if you value your relationships.

If you are in a leadership role or act as mentor to others, it is up to you to set the example and take your actions seriously.

Putting the feelings of others above your own is not easy. And I am not suggesting that you grovel or lose your sense of dignity in the process. You want to react appropriately to the offense — not to go overboard.

So the next time you need to apologize, try the following:

Consider your actions — Spend time thinking about what happened and how your actions affected others. Did you hurt someone’s feelings or reputation? Waste time or money? Break trust? Taking time to understand exactly how you caused the other person pain will help you deliver an apology that is thoughtful and genuine.

Say “I am sorry” — It seems obvious, but this is where many apologies go wrong. The instinct to avoid situations that will be painful or embarrassing is only natural. But it is important to actually say sorry. A face-to-face apology is best, but if that is not possible, make sure your apology comes from your heart.

Be specific — When you do apologize, explain exactly what you did. Do not gloss over the details. For example, you could say, “I am sorry I snapped at you during the product team meeting. I was in a rotten mood and I took out my frustration on you. It was unfair and I wish I had not done it.”

Express empathy — You do not want to draw out the conflict indefinitely, but you should acknowledge the ways that you caused the other person pain. In the example above, you might say, “I realize that my reaction caught you off guard. I know that I would not want to be chided in front of the team.”

Request forgiveness — Ask to be forgiven. In the example we are using, the other person may be ready to accept the apology and move on. But if you did something more egregious, they may need to work through their emotions. Acknowledge that you are asking for forgiveness but make it clear you do not expect an immediate reply. This will give them time and space to think.

Sure, a contrite apology can be humbling for the person saying sorry. But that is alright. In fact, that is the point.

So the next time you find yourself in the wrong, try to avoid the knee-jerk apology. Take the act of apologizing seriously — offer a heartfelt message. You will grow and others will learn from your example.

I have received an apology email from my CEO for springing last minute, poorly managed company duties one late Friday afternoon which resulted me to work back and deal with an urgent matter that resulted in making an international call to my CMO in LA.

In short, my CEO’s urgency and lack of organisation became my problem on a late Friday afternoon.

Over the weekend I have received the following email from my boss:

“Hi Andrew, thanks for working with Fred last night. It was not intended to go into the night so apologies for that. It was a last minute opportunity we had to take up. Have a good weekend!”

I would like to respectfully accept the apology professionally however I would like to firmly with my reply that this style of practice is not to repeat itself.

How could I reply to my CEO to ensure my message is professionally and respectfully pro-traded in good taste?

How to accept an apology from a coworker

10 Answers 10

You can just send him a “It’s okay, mate. I’ve taken care of that!” kind of reassurance.

It can go something like this:

< His Name >,

I really appreciate you writing to me about the incident.

It was a nice learning opportunity for us, and we had taken care of it. So, no regrets on that!

And, a great weekend to you too.



If I were you, I wouldn’t really try to talk to him about such incidents unless and until they are a regular occurrence.

How to accept an apology from a coworker

Although phrased as one, this isn’t really primarily an apology. It’s an acknowledgement and praise for your efforts. One which has given the bosses a good impression of you and deserved mention (and won’t be forgotten).

You take it in good spirit and reply positively. Any issues you have with the professionalism and misgivings over it happening again you take up with your immediate superior, not the CEO.

It IS professional to help uncomplainingly in emergency situations, whatever the cause. Finding ways to mitigate against them happening is also professional. Complaining nonconstructively about having to help out in emergencies isn’t.

So by all means approach your superiors with a constructive solution to help things get sorted before it becomes an emergency. But not to outright say they’re unimportant to you.

How to accept an apology from a coworker

I would just accept his apology as simply as possible. I am assuming this is a one off. He has noted that it should not have happened by sending you this email.

If it does become a frequent thing then I would have a chat with him.

How to accept an apology from a coworker

The existing answers seem to focus on avoiding a negative response. I would seize the opportunity to use this for a positive response instead.

You can probably be more concrete, as you know the ills of the company. Use this as an opportunity to initiate changes.

Only one answer has attempted to answer the question, so I’ll give it a shot. I think it’s entirely possible to respond politely and firmly, even though I agree with others that things happen in business and sometimes you need to pull with the team. I have never, ever, worked in a place where everything was planned so well that no one ever had to work overtime.

That said, this might accomplish your goal:

Hi, Jack;

Thanks for your kind words. I’m glad I could help this time, since I didn’t have previous obligations that couldn’t be set aside. Did the opportunity pan out? I hope so–everyone worked very hard.



I had a similar situation where I had to work Saturday 6pm to 10pm recently. Which is rare for me. However, I knew that our IT guy was working as well, plus four employees of a customer, and a huge contract was in danger if the problem couldn’t be fixed. (Customer was actually happy with “we found what the problem is, we know how to fix it”, which we achieved at 10pm. In money terms, this was my salary and IT guy’s salary and three or four more salaries paid for the next few years that was at stake if we had messed up.

That kind of situation happens. You made a very good impression. Your CEO has you in his books as “Andrew is a guy that can be relied on if things go wrong”. That is so valuable for your position And your career in the company. The CEO also made it clear that this kind of thing is not supposed to happen. And you plan to send an email that will undo all the positive effect. Which is the worst thing you could possibly do.

If there is another last minute opportunity, then the CEO will call you, and you will help out or you will be history. He will not miss out on a major amount of money to avoid hurting your feelings. If he doesn’t want to hurt your feelings, he will replace you with someone who doesn’t feel hurt.

Just to make this clear: This was an exceptional situation. This isn’t regular overtime. A CEO asking for regular unpaid overtime and/or not acknowledging what you did is an entirely different matter.

Apologies can be difficult and even awkward, especially in the workplace because you are dealing with personal feelings in a professional setting. However, apologies are almost always appreciated when they are well thought out and sincere.

While some people believe apologies, particularly in the workplace, are a sign of weakness, they can demonstrate that you are capable and in control, as they establish that you recognize an error and how to fix it.

When to Apologize at Work

While apologies are important, you want to avoid constant apologies for every small mistake you make at work. If you give a formal, elaborate apology for every minor transgression, coworkers and employers may view you as weak and insecure. So, if you accidentally leave your coffee mug in the kitchen sink, or show up a minute late to a coffee date with a colleague, a concise “I’m sorry” ​at the moment might be all that is needed.

On the other hand, if you were late for work when you really should have been present, an apology may be in order. It is important to seek a balance between over-apologizing and not apologizing at all.

When to Apologize During a Job Search

If you have done something to inconvenience a prospective employer, such as arriving late or not at all to an interview or not handing in application materials on time, you should apologize. The entire job search process is your chance to demonstrate your personal and professional qualities. If you have demonstrated a quality that you do not think is appropriate, such as tardiness or rudeness, you need to address the issue.

How to Apologize

Every apology will differ in method and content, based on the issue for which you are apologizing, and those to whom you are apologizing. However, the following tips can make almost any apology more effective:

  • Apologize as soon as possible. By issuing an apology quickly, you are acknowledging that you made a mistake and truly regret it. Sometimes, especially for minor transgressions, such as arriving late to lunch with a colleague, an apology is accepted quickly. However, when apologizing for a particularly awful transgression, you might need to wait a few hours or even a day for everyone involved to process the situation to accept the apology.
  • Give no excuses. By giving excuses for your mistake, you are not taking responsibility for your actions. Be sure to say the words “I am sorry” or “I apologize” to express your remorse clearly. Including reasons for your actions makes it seems like you are excusing yourself from the mistake and not really sorry.
  • Take responsibility. After saying you are sorry, clearly and concisely acknowledge what it is you did wrong. For example, you can say “when I did not hand in my assignment for our group project, I let down the entire team.” Admit to the rule or norm that you violated to take responsibility for your specific mistake.
  • Explain how you will fix the mistake. In addition to saying why you are sorry, explain how you will prevent the issue from reoccurring. For example, if you missed a deadline for a team assignment, explain to your colleagues that you have organized your schedule in a way that will prevent you from missing future deadlines. Solely telling others that the mistake will not be repeated is not sufficient unless you explain the steps you will take to ensure it doesn’t reoccur. You might also consider asking the person to whom you are apologizing if there is anything you can do to remedy the situation.
  • Keep your word. If you say you will work harder at responding promptly to emails, then stay true to your word to show others that your apology is genuine. By following through with your solution, you are also showing others that you can be trusted.
  • Consider the method. Some apologies need to be said in person. For example, if you made a large mistake with your boss, you may need to meet in person to discuss the transgression in detail. However, if you are uncomfortable dealing with these situations in person, or if you may become too upset or say something incorrectly, you may want to send an apology email. You can also choose a middle ground, for which you apologize via email and ask the person if they want to meet in person to discuss the matter further.

Sample Apology Email to a Coworker for a Mistake at Work​​

The following email can assist you in writing your own apology to a coworker. The email is also available as a template that can be downloaded for use with Google Docs and Word Online.

How to accept an apology from a coworker

Sample Apology Email to Coworker for Mistake at Work​​ (Text Version)

Subject: My Apologies

I want to apologize for mixing up the files for XYZ Company and ABC Company. My careless mistake hurt our sales pitches, and almost lost us two key clients.

When we work together on a sales pitch, I realize it is important that we can confidently rely on each other to complete our assignments. When I made a mistake, I let you down.

I am currently developing strategies to ensure that I never make that kind of sloppy error again. I have developed an even clearer organization for my online client files that will make it impossible for me to confuse one file for another. I have also spoken with our supervisor and explained that the error was completely my fault, not yours.

I understand that I have damaged our working relationship. However, I greatly value you as a colleague, and I believe that we have worked well together as a sales team in the past. I hope that you will be willing to work together in the future. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to make this possible.

Mark Williamson
Sales Associate
Paper Supply Company
[email protected]

Sample Apology Email to an Employee for Behavior

The following email is an example of an apology from a manager to an employee for inappropriate behavior at work. Depending on the severity of the offense, the manager might want to either meet with the employee in person—perhaps with an HR person present—or write a formal written letter.

Sample Apology Email to an Employee for Behavior (Text Version)

I am very sorry for my behavior in the staff meeting this morning. I cut you off in the middle of your presentation and criticized your performance in front of the staff. This was not only unprofessional but also simply disrespectful. I let my stress about a personal matter impact my management of the office.

I have always said to you, and to all my employees, that I want this office to be a place where you all feel comfortable sharing ideas with one another. When I yelled at you publicly for a small error in your presentation, I damaged that collaborative environment.

I am taking steps to make sure I do not lose my temper in that way again. I am working to manage my stress so that I do not let it impact the way I interact with my employees. I also know how capable you are of conducting a terrific staff meeting. I would, therefore, love for you to lead the staff meeting next week.

I am very sorry again. Feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss this matter further.

When you hurt someone or someone hurts you, you probably often think that you know how things will go: you (or they) will apologize, you’ll talk things out, one or the other of you (or both) will accept the apology, and you’ll move forward. Whenever you apologize to someone else for treating them poorly, letting them down, or betraying their trust, you probably take for granted the fact that they’ll accept your apology. But there are some times you don’t need to accept an apology — and perhaps sometimes when you shouldn’t automatically assume that someone else will accept yours.

“I talk with clients about what it is they need so they can make a decision that is really right for them,” Erin Parisi, LMHC, CAP, a licensed mental health counselor, tells Romper in an email exchange. “It’s always OK not to accept an apology, but I think [it’s] what an individual needs that determines when and if it’s appropriate to accept it. Many people see accepting an apology as a way of saying that what the person did is acceptable, but I don’t take it to mean that. In my mind it’s more of an acknowledgement that everything that can be done has been done, and an attempt to move forward is the next step.”

And even in these situations, when you’re perfectly entitled to not accept an offered apology, it’s important to remember that part of moving on can mean coming to a place where you’re at peace with what happened and ready to let some of that go.

“I do believe that we can get to a place of forgiveness without accepting someone’s apology. Forgiveness is for us, it’s not about the other person and a lot of times people misconceive that, they think that, ‘well if I forgive them, then that means that they think that it’s OK or that I’m OK with this,’ but the truth is, forgiveness isn’t for them, it’s for you,” Melissa Dumaz, MS, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, says. “It’s so that you truly heal within yourself — inside and out — about what has happened.”

And in these situations, it’s completely within your right to not accept an apology if it doesn’t feel right to you.

When The Apology Isn’t Genuine

If you’ve been wronged, you want to feel as though the apology you receive is genuine. If it’s not, that’s one of those times when you shouldn’t feel as though you’re obligated to accept. “As we know, an apology is an expression of regret for something we’ve done wrong, so if someone is apologizing but they’re not truly owning up to what it is that they did wrong or they’re not willing to change their behavior so they don’t do that same thing again, then sometimes it puts us in a position where it’s a challenge or we don’t want to accept their apology,” Dumaz says.

You don’t owe it to them to accept the apology they give you. “We are trained with this knee-jerk reaction,” Dr. Tanisha M. Ranger, a licensed psychologist, tells Romper in an email exchange. “They say, ‘I’m sorry,’ and we say, ‘that’s alright.’ When they’re not sorry and/or it’s not alright, it is perfectly okay to not accept an apology.”

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A few weeks back, I learned that my coworker and good friend “Jill” was pregnant. I knew some people were throwing a baby shower for her, so when a card was circulated around the office, I wrote something like:

“Congrats. Although there will be a lot of crying and sleepless nights, you’ll love this new stage of life! Call me when I can bring over dinner.” (Jill had brought over a meal for my wife and I when we had our first, so I was fully intending to repay the kind gesture).

A few days later, I was confused when another card went around for Jill. My coworker claimed this was the only card that was circulated. I eventually figured out that I must have actually signed a card for another coworker “Mary” without realizing it. Mary had just lost her spouse, and this was a sympathy card.

I was horrified when I thought through what I had written. My writing wasn’t just irrelevant, but could probably be taken as extremely offensive and crude. I like Mary and certainly didn’t mean any harm. The card had already been mailed, so there was no getting it back. I went into all out panic mode for the next week.

When Mary returned from bereavement leave, I apologized profusely. I explained the mixup and told her how stupid and sorry I was. She just looked at me said “I do not accept your apology”, and walked away.

I feel awful about this situation, but I’m not sure how to proceed. She’s understandably upset with me, but I need to fix things between us, especially since Mary is someone I work with on a regular basis. How can I repair our relationship while being respectful of her current circumstance? I feel terrible about this, but I don’t know what I can do.

When someone offends you and apologizes by sending an apology letter or email, you should acknowledge that you have received the apology letter sent to you and also state your acceptance to it in an “Apology Accepted Letter”.
In the letter, you can also thank the sender for being thoughtful in this matter. You can assure that you also accept your fault and willing to put the matter aside.

Find below, sample Apology Accepted Letters/Emails to guide your letter writing process.

Apology Accepted Letter / Email (Sample #1)

Apology Accepted Letter / Email (Sample #2)

[Letter Date]
[Recipients Name]
[Address line]
[State, ZIP Code]

[Subject: Normally bold, summarizes the intention of the letter] -Optional-

Dear [Recipients Name],

I have just received the letter that you have sent to me, and I have read it thoroughly.

I want you to know that I do appreciate the thought and effort you have placed in reaching out to me through this letter.

I want to assure you that I am very much willing to put this matter aside and dismiss it as a past disagreement.

[Senders Name]
[Senders Title] -Optional-

[Enclosures: number] – Optional –
cc: [Name of copy recipient] – Optional –

Apology Accepted Letter / Email (Sample #3)

[Letter Date]
[Recipients Name]
[Address line]
[State, ZIP Code]

[Subject: Normally bold, summarizes the intention of the letter] -Optional-

Dear [Recipients Name],

This letter is in reference to the apology letter that had been sent to XYZ Trust on 31st January, 2014. We have received and acknowledged your apologies and we are writing to inform you that the Members of the Trust have accepted your apologies.

We appreciate your gesture to send us an apology letter, accepting your mistake for the delayed delivery of the goods in the market.

If you would have delayed the delivery of the goods by even 1 more day, it would have caused serious problems and inconvenience to the trust that has put a lot of faith in you.
As was mentioned by you in your apology letter that due to unpleasant weather conditions, you could not manage the delivery of the goods, we understand the situation and hence you should not worry about the business relationship in future.

We greatly appreciate your approach for handling the situation and kindness to send an apology letter. This was a small gesture of your professionalism.

In future, we expect that such delayed services will never happen. High regards for the efforts made by you after realizing your mistakes.

[Senders Name]
[Senders Title] -Optional-

[Enclosures: number] – Optional –
cc: [Name of copy recipient] – Optional –

Heartfelt apologies can be tough; admitting you were wrong requires introspection, humbling yourself, being vulnerable. But the gracelessness of the person accepting the apology too often exacerbates an already uncomfortable situation. Redditor u/shakakhon posted in r/LifeProHacks about the worst way to react to an apology:

If you’re in an argument with someone and they admit to being wrong, don’t belittle or rub their nose in it. This can cause people to dig into false beliefs out of misplaced pride or the hope of saving face. It takes courage to admit when you’re wrong and shouldn’t be looked down upon.

Don’t be a sore winner! If someone has admitted they’re wrong, that’s a moment to reward them. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Here are some ideas for when and how to accept apologies so that the conflict is resolved in a healthy way.

Decide if you really accept their apology

There are many degrees to disagreements and wrongdoing. Some offenses really can’t be smoothed over with an apology—maybe this person has been doing the same thing over and over for a long time and hasn’t changed their behavior. Maybe what they did this time was so bad it changed how you feel about them forever. Maybe the apology is bad, and the apologizer isn’t taking full responsibility for their actions.

If you really can’t accept an apology, don’t pretend to while continuing to simmer with resentment. There are some situations where it can be hard or impossible to reject an apology—for instance, in a workplace scenario. But in your personal life, you are under no obligation to accept a lukewarm “I’m sorry.” Apologies are a step towards repairing a relationship. If it’s not a relationship you want, let it go.

Understand your own vulnerability

Apologies usually occur in the wake tumultuous feelings; you got heated, they got heated. Even if I’m in the right, I find I often feel embarrassed when it’s time to make up. It’s partly because I was showing how much I cared about something during the conflict. It’s easy to feel vulnerable when we’re emotional, and feeling vulnerable can make us lash out further, even in response to someone’s efforts to make things right .

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W e can get caught up in being self-righteousness, a powerful feeling: you’re in the right! You may not want to let go of that position. If you find yourself reacting negatively to a sincere apology, acknowledge to yourself the ways it makes you feel vulnerable. That might help you understand if you’re still mad at the other person , or just afraid of your feelings.

Give yourself time

If you’re really upset about something, saying “No big deal!” minimizes your feelings, feelings that are likely to pop up again at some later point. If you need time after an apology, you can say so. For example, “Thank you for apologizing, but I need some time and space.”

Let yourself cool down—I think it’s helpful to ask if you can text or call later. That way, you don’t have to make some grand gesture to indicate you’re ready to reconnect . You can just reach out and say hello and take it from there. Generally, if people are making a good faith effort to repair a wrong, they’ll understand and back off. If not, well, go back to my first point about whether or not this is a relationship you want to fix.

What else you can say

“I accept your apology,” is a very formal way of responding to an apology, but it’s what we’re trained to say.

“It’s okay,” is also a pretty common (more casual) response, but as we’ve discussed, sometimes it’s not okay. Here are some ideas for what you might say when you want to accept someone’s apology without being disingenuous about how you feel. Some might be more appropriate for friends and family and others for work scenarios:

  • Thank you for saying that. I was upset about ___, and I’m glad you understand that. Let’s move on.
  • I appreciate your apology. I’m still mad, but I won’t be eventually.
  • I understand, everyone makes mistakes.

Share your own responses in the comments.

Admit your part in the argument

At times, only one person is completely and totally wrong. More often, two people have a conflict where they both kind of act like jerks, but one is a bit more of a jerk than the other. You can take responsibility for your bad behavior in a fight without making the whole altercation your fault. Tell the apologizer, “Thanks for apologizing. I wish you hadn’t done ___, it’s true, but I also wish I hadn’t done ___ .”