We have all wronged someone at a point or other… and we have also been wronged by others. Generally, we have been taught to apologise. However, in order to apologise, there are a few steps which we may need to keep in mind.


  1. Always use empathy. Try imagine that someone else did this thing to you.
  2. Acknowledge that you have behaved badly towards this other person
  3. Take responsibility – no one forced you to do it.
  4. Validate the other person’s feelings, that this action had left an impact on them.
  5. Tell the other person that the relationship you have is important enough to wish to repair it
  6. Work on rebuilding the trust which may have been broken


Apologies need to be sincere, and one such way to make sure they are is by using empathy. A good trick to remember is if you’re going to add a “but”in your apology, it’s probably not genuine – or it won’t be interpreted as such. For example, saying “I’m sorry I didn’t speak with you last night at the party, but I met up with my old friends” can make the other person feel that they’re not as important as these friends because you had plans together which were cancelled for this group. Instead, something like this could work better: “I’m sorry I cancelled our plans, it must have been disappointing as we had been trying to find a common time to meet for a while. I value our relationship and I’d like to see if we could possibly sort out another date, if you’d be interested?”.


Sometimes we don’t mean to wrong another person, it happens because we may not always think our actions through, and after all, we are all human. Therefore, learning how to apologise in a genuine way, using empathy, can be healthy in maintaining important relationships in our life which otherwise could get tarnished through certain actions which may cause resentment.




Brooks, A. W., Dai, H. & Schweitzer, M.E. (2014). I’m sorry about the rain! Superfluous apologies demonstrate empathic concern and increase trust.  Social Psychology and Personality Science, 5 (4), 467-474.



Mel McElhatton holds a degree in Social Work from the University of Malta. With Willingness, Mel does life coaching and is one of the facilitators in the IRL – In Real Life team. They are also the producer of the radio show Niddiskutu s-Sess. They can be contacted on mel@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.