How To Accept An Apology Without Saying It’s Okay (4 SIMPLE STRATEGIES)

If you’re still upset and not ready to let it go yet:

You should say so, but be careful with your language and tone. “It’s important to be genuine without being hostile,” says Schumann. “Research shows that using a ‘constructive voice’ — where you voice your concerns in a positive, calm way — is the most effective way to invite behavioral changes and better relationships. Sweeping things under the rug and pretending to forgive when you’re not ready are not going to fix the problem.”

Try saying: “Thank you, I needed to hear this apology. I really am hurt.” Or, “I appreciate your apology. I need time to think about it, and I need to see a change in your actions before I can move forward with you.”

Don’t attack the transgressor, as hard as it may be to hold back in the moment. “Avoid negative strategies like criticism or contempt, attacking the person’s character, or mocking them, or rolling your eyes at them, or being defensive,” says Schumann. “The other person will just get defensive and put up a wall, and you’ll get even more upset.”

Step 4: Give Your Response

You aren’t obligated to accept an apology just because someone offers it. It’s up to you to decide whether the time is right. The following list offers up several kind and respectful responses you can give depending on your situation.

It’s OK

We often say, “It’s OK,” far too often when someone apologizes. It’s easy to say and helps us avoid feeling uncomfortable. But often, a more detailed reply is better for addressing emotional pain and restoring trust. Reserve the, “It’s OK,” answer for times when the other person’s actions have almost no effect on you or create a minor mishap. 

Acknowledge their effort while remaining uncertain

It takes guts to offer an apology, and this effort is worth recognizing. You can acknowledge a person’s effort to apologize without accepting it or offering forgiveness in return. Don’t feel pressured to accept an apology without being sure that you’re ready. 

Thank the person for reaching out to you. If you aren’t sure about your next step, tell them you need more time to think about it. Regardless of their reaction, remain calm and kind.

Accept the apology

When you’re ready to accept someone’s apology, you can move forward with the relationship. It does not necessarily mean you have forgiven them or put the problem behind you. That step may take more time to unfold.

By accepting the apology, you acknowledge that what the other person offered was sincere and with positive intent. You believe they are willing to repair the trust between you and make up for what they did wrong. 

Don’t accept the apology

You may not be ready to accept their apology right now, or you may not believe it’s sincere. If you can’t accept it, thank them and state that you appreciate what they’ve said. Some emotional wounds heal slowly, so it’s reasonable to take your time with this if you aren’t sure yet.

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Step 2: Decide if You Are Ready to Accept the Apology

Once you’ve heard the apology, you get to decide whether you’re ready to accept it. It’s kind and respectful to acknowledge a person’s apology when they offer it, but you are not obligated to accept it. These questions can help you decide how to respond.

Does it seem sincere? 

Body language can betray a person who isn’t apologizing sincerely. If they seem impatient or have a defensive posture, they may not be giving you an honest apology. Eye contact, a sincere tone of voice, and lowered head are signs of humility and remorse. 

Does it include “but” or “however”? 

These two words can often cancel out an apology. It’s lip service to try smoothing over the problem. Anything a person says after, “but,” or, “however,” does not fully acknowledge their actions or your pain. 

Do they acknowledge the pain they caused you? 

Some people apologize by saying how awful they feel and don’t say much about the person they’re speaking to. An apology that recognizes your emotional pain is worth remembering. You need to know the other person honors your emotions before moving forward.

Do they accept responsibility for their actions? 

This part is critical. For an apology to be acceptable, the other person must show they understand how their actions caused you pain. When you hear them accept personal responsibility, you have a chance at repairing the trust between you.

Do they want to move quickly past the apology and return to normal? 

If they skip through the apology and try to act like everything’s normal, step back and take a breath. Their apology may be an attempt to get out of an uncomfortable situation and save face. You have reason to be doubtful.

Are you ready to move forward? 

It is 100 percent OK if you aren’t ready to accept the other person’s apology at the time they offer it. Even if they are sincere and ready to make amends, you may need more time. And if you aren’t able to accept it now, say that clearly. 

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