Our Best Advice For Genuinely Accepting An Apology

When someone hurts us, accepting their apology is rarely easy. Depending on how deep the pain cut, the humiliation that was caused, or the betrayal that was committed, sometimes accepting an apology can actually be impossible. But, as much as that may be the case, for someone to own up to what they did and apologize for it speaks volumes. It doesn't just say something about who they are as a person, but what you mean to them as well. Also, people don't like being the "bad" person in any scenario. 


"Research shows that after someone does something that harms a relationship, they want to have a sense of acceptance again, and get reassurance that they are good people," psychology professor Karina Schumann tells The Cut.

Although no one is under any obligation to accept an apology — or offer one, for that matter — if someone does come to you to say they're sorry for something they've done, it's up to you to decide if this is something you're able to accept. And, if you are, you want to make sure your acceptance is genuine. There's no sense in only half-heartedly accepting an apology because then it's as though the apology never happened in the first place.

Be honest about how you feel

When someone hurts you, either intentionally or unintentionally, it can feel awful and, in some situations, destroy relationships. But if someone is able to apologize for whatever they've done to you and they can do so sincerely, then it's worth taking the time, to be honest with not just them, but yourself in how you feel about what happened.


"Sincerely say, 'I really appreciate hearing that. This is something that hit me hard' or 'It really felt awkward between us. I'm still going to need a little time to process, but I'm looking forward to when this is behind us,'" co-host of the Emily Post Institute's Awesome Etiquette podcast Lizzie Post tells HuffPost. "Give them that positive hope for the future." You're allowed to take as long as you need to process this apology, and only an apology that has been thoroughly processed can be genuinely accepted.

Be mature about it

If someone can take accountability for having wronged you or hurt you in any way, the worst thing you can do is act out in an immature way. Even if you're still bitter and angry, you want to take the high road — no matter how difficult that may be in the moment. Someone is apologizing to you for the pain they've caused or the damage they've created, so at least give them a chance to speak their peace, as opposed to verbally going for the jugular.


"Avoid negative strategies like criticism or contempt, attacking the person's character, or mocking them, or rolling your eyes at them, or being defensive," psychology professor Karina Schumann tells The Cut. "The other person will just get defensive and put up a wall, and you'll get even more upset." Then there you are with an even bigger mess than before the apology was said. There's no sense in creating more problems.

Say these three words

If you feel in your heart of hearts that the apology you're being given is genuine and, in turn, feel that you're able to genuinely forgive without some sort of caveat attached to the apology, then go ahead and say the words: "I forgive you." Yes, it will make you feel vulnerable and it might even make you feel like the other person won in some way because you are conceding, but true forgiveness, straight from the heart level of forgiveness, is a courageous act.


"Forgiveness is a special kind of moral virtue that always and without exception occurs when the other person has been unfair to you," professor of education psychology at the University of Wisconsin Robert Enright tells Vox. "When that person is unfair to you, and you willingly choose to forgive — it's not forced upon you — you are basically good to the one who was not good to you. You're deliberately trying to get rid of the resentment and offer goodness of some kind: respect, kindness, anything that is good for the other person." There's power in forgiving. It shows you're able to take the high road despite the pain. 

Be sincere

According to the Mayo Clinic, being able to forgive is one of the healthiest things you can do for your mind and body. If you're able to sincerely forgive someone who has hurt or upset you, you'll have lower blood pressure, less anger, depression, and anxiety, better heart health, and even your immune system will get a healthy boost making it stronger than it was before.


It's these positive side effects to forgiveness that should inspire you to accept the apology you're being given as genuinely as possible. The acceptance should be so genuine that when you say the words, "I forgive you," a weight is immediately lifted and you suddenly feel free of the pain and grudge that was there before you said those three important little words out loud. It's the sincerity and authenticity of accepting the apology that will have a far greater — and far healthier — effect on you than the one doing the apologizing. 

Move forward with grace

It's important to remember that just because you've forgiven someone, it doesn't mean that what happened magically disappears. It's still there and it will always be there. It's what you do with that part of your past that matters. "We know that just because we receive an apology that does not automatically erase the hurt felt from the offense," licensed mental health counselor Chautè Thompson, LMHC, tells Mind Body Green. "It also does not erase the broken trust that was created because of the mistake."


Although Thompson suggests giving time and space to the relationship after the apology, and hopefully it will grow back to where it once was, this isn't always the right route for everyone. Sometimes, even when we've accepted an apology, it's time to move forward and leave the past behind. People come in and out of our lives all the time, some for the long run and some for not so long. It's ultimately up to you and what you think is best for your mental health as to whether or not you want to keep that person in your life.