It can be hard to accept an apology when you’ve been hurt, betrayed, or let down.
Words don’t mean much when your feelings are so strong.
However, just as it’s necessary to know how to offer a sincere apology, it’s also important to learn to accept one sincerely.
In this article, we’ll offer tips and advice on how to accept an apology when you are ready to move on.
While these tips can work, being patient with yourself is also vital.
If you’re not yet ready to accept an apology from someone who hurt you, you don’t have to.
Still, accepting is the first step to letting go. If you accept an apology, you can more easily let go of the hurt caused and move on with your life.
How to accept an apology
There are three main steps in accepting an apology.
First, listen closely. Second, assess the apology. Finally, accept it (or don’t).
Listening is one of the most critical life skills one can learn.
Many of us don’t listen closely to others or even to our own feelings. Instead, we hold onto memories and models of how we must behave and cling to them so much that we don’t hear the truth behind it all.
So, before trying to accept (or reject) a person’s apology, listen first.
Listen to assess the quality of the apology. Some apologies are sincere, but some are not, and it’s helpful to discern between the two.
You can usually discern a sincere or false apology through the words used.
Consider the following examples.
I’m sorry that I hurt you. I realize now how my behavior was unfair. I take full responsibility for my actions and would like to make it up to you.
I’m sorry you feel hurt. I didn’t mean to make you feel that way. I didn’t know you would make such a big deal about it.
Can you see the difference between the two examples above? In the first, the apologizer only uses ‘I’ statements. In the second, the apology is turned around to focus on the victim’s feelings or perspective.
‘I’ statements demonstrate the apologizer’s sincerity. They accept responsibility for the problem without making it about the other person, a key ingredient in a good apology.
The latter example focuses on the victim’s feelings, demonstrating a lesser level of personal responsibility and accountability and implying that the problem is based on perspective rather than the actual events.
Moreover, the first example includes a commitment to making amends. The apologizer has done something wrong or unfair, but they realize the error of their ways and seek a solution that you both can agree upon. The latter example includes no such intention.
2. Assess the apology
Listen closely to the apology to assess it.
Some people apologize for the sake of smoothing things over and getting on with life. These are not sincere apologies and only help the apologizer feel less guilty.
To assess the apology and discern between truth and falsehood, ask yourself some of the following questions.
- Do they take responsibility for their actions?
- Do they mainly use ‘I’ statements or ‘you’ statements?
- Do they use terms like ‘but,’ however,’ etc.?
- Do they want to make amends?
- Do they speak with a sincere tone?
- How do they react if you don’t accept the apology immediately?
Be particularly mindful of the last question. A genuine apology involves patience. Someone genuinely sorry will understand that the hurt person will need time to process things.
Part of accepting responsibility is dealing with the consequences, sometimes waiting for the other person to feel ready to accept.
If someone grows impatient with you because you can’t accept their apology, that shows that they’re less interested in fixing things and more focused on feeling better about themselves.
3. Check-in with yourself
If the apologizing person is sincere and requests forgiveness, are you ready to accept it?
The best apology in the world won’t mean much if you can’t.
If you’re not ready to accept the apology, that’s okay.
The pain, the hurt, the sense of betrayal, or any other feeling that came about through the other person’s actions may take some time to process, and you’re on no one’s timeline but your own.
If you try to accept an apology before you’re ready, it will probably cause more problems later.
You can say that you accept it now, but you’re likely to harbor resentment if you don’t truly accept it.
When the relationship seems smooth again, you may get emotional flashbacks or memories of the pain caused.
Since you cannot fully accept the apology at the time, you’ll start to want another one. This can cause problems in a relationship because the person who apologized may not feel that yet another apology is justified, given that you ‘accepted’ it the first time.
As such, check in with yourself when that person apologizes.
How do you feel about the issue? Are you still hurt? Have you processed everything yet, or is it an ongoing process? Do you have anything else to say to this person before you’re ready to forgive them?
4. Decide to accept
Once you’ve listened carefully to that person’s apology, assessed their tone and body language, then checked in with yourself and your own feelings, the next step is to decide to accept the apology.
You feel ready to move forward from the issue now that that person has apologized with a sincere tone and a wish to make amends.
This stage of accepting the apology is just a matter of telling yourself, ‘Yes, I am ready to accept this apology and move on.’
How to respond to an apology
Once you’ve accepted the apology yourself, you need to respond to it. The apologizer has made themselves vulnerable, so offering them a clear response is essential.
If the air between the two of you feels clear, the dynamic once again light, and you’ve come to accept their apology, you can offer a warm response.
You can also explain in simple terms that you don’t accept. Here’s how to do both:
‘Thank you; I appreciate your apology’
‘Accept’ is an active verb. Accepting someone’s apology is not the same as brushing it off or saying, ‘it’s fine.
Let the apologizer know you appreciate their efforts to fix the issue by verbally expressing thanks.
Saying ‘thank you and that you appreciate the apology is not the same as accepting, but a step before acceptance.
Thanking the apologizer demonstrates that you understand their feelings, see how honest they were, and acknowledge their effort.
You show gratitude for that person’s accountability, which benefits you in the long run.
Even for the difficult things in life, gratitude is far better for your health than resentment and grudges.
‘I accept your apology
Once you’re ready to accept someone’s apology, let them know.
Waiting for an apology can be exhausting, although you may not worry much about the other person waiting after they hurt you.
Still, a genuine apology indicates that the apologizer wants to fix and maintain the relationship; if you do too, there should be compassion in return.
Thank you for apologizing; I accept. Just because I accept doesn’t mean I’m not still hurt, but I’m processing it. I hope I can trust you again.
I accept your apology. Thank you for seeing things from my perspective.
I accept your apology, and I forgive you. Trusting you again will take time, but I’m willing to work together on rebuilding the relationship.
How to decline an apology
There may be times that you may be inclined to withhold forgiveness. Perhaps you’ve been hurt too deep and the wounds are still fresh. It’s OK not to be OK. Everyone has a different timeline.
Here are ways to let the one who hurt you know that you need more time before you can accept their apology.
‘I’m not ready to accept your apology yet.’
It’s perfectly fine if you’re not ready to accept the person’s apology.
When one of your friends breaks a promise, or a partner lets you down, it takes some time to build trust again.
Take all the time you need.
It’s better to allow yourself time to process the events as well as the apology.
As mentioned earlier, rushing to accept before you’re ready may lead to resentment later.
‘I don’t believe you understand.’
Sometimes people offer apologies to help themselves feel better, forget about their guilt, and keep things happy and peaceful moving forward.
However, having such a desire can blind a person to the importance of a genuine apology.
Someone genuinely sorry accepts that you may not forgive them, but they apologize anyway.
Take inspiration from the examples below if you’re stuck on how to respond when you want to decline an apology.
Thank you for apologizing, I appreciate it, but I don’t accept it yet. I’m still processing the hurt, and it may take some time.
Thank you, I believe you, but I’m still healing, and I’m not ready for things to go back to how they were before.
It’s not always easy to forgive.
Broken trust can be hard to handle, and there’s nothing wrong if it takes you some time to process your hurt.
Still, holding on to hurt, resentment, and grudges is ultimately a disservice to yourself. So, if possible, practice forgiveness.
Your mental health will thank you. Accepting an apology and forgiving someone doesn’t mean that what happened was ok – it means that you prioritize your health and well-being. It means you decide to let go of the pain for your own sake, not the other person.