Sometimes it's difficult to apologize. In fact, some people avoid apologizing to bolster their self-esteem, reports an article in the November 2012 issue of the "European Journal of Social Psychology." If you've caused someone worry and concern about your whereabouts because you arrived home late, however, it's important to overcome any resistance you may feel and make things right with the hurt party. Doing so will help keep your relationship on an even keel.
Empathize with the person to whom you are apologizing. Make your apology reflect this empathy. Tell him, "I know you must have been really worried when I said I would be home by 10 o'clock but didn't arrive until after midnight. I would have been worried as well." Avoid telling him that he is a worrywart or that it is not his business how late you stay out. When you have genuine empathy for the person you hurt, the other person can feel its healing power, says Beverly Engel of the UMass Amherst Family Business Center. This will help mend the relationship.
Take responsibility for staying out later than you said you would. Don't make excuses and say that you lost track of time or were unable to find a ride home. Doing so makes you appear irresponsible and does nothing to make the person you are apologizing to feel better. Tell her, "I should not have stayed out two hours later than I promised," and bite your tongue if you feel the temptation to give an excuse for your behavior.
Let the person know that you will remedy the situation in the future. If you were late getting home because you forgot what time it was, tell your partner that you will set the alarm on your phone the next time you go out so that you won't forget the time. If you couldn't find a ride home, promise that you'll carry money for a taxi and call one if needed.
Keep your apology simple, advises clinical psychologist Joseph Burgo in "Psychology Today." After you've apologized, don't make demands of the other person, such as asking for forgiveness. Allow the other person time to process your apology and to gain emotional equilibrium.
Bolster your apology with your actions. If your partner is angry at you for coming home five hours later when you said you were going to have a quick coffee with a friend, be considerate and advise him of any delays in the future so that he does not worry about your safety. Note that if you stay out late again without notifying your partner, your next apology will be perceived as insincere.
- Saying "I'm sorry I hurt your feelings" implies that the person's feelings are at fault, rather than your actions.
- Avoid using the words "if" and "but" warns Burgos.
Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.
Robert Koene/Photodisc/Getty Images