We cannot manoeuvre through life without stepping on people’s toes here and there. I am not running away from the fact that there are some things that we shouldn’t have to apologise for, this is for when an apology is actually in order. Here is what you should not say/do.

  1. “Sorry”

In primary school I had a teacher who always made sure “our sentences were complete” People would say “Yes” and she would chime “Yes, who? Yes donkey? I won’t respond, it could be anyone you’re talking to” we had to say “Yes Mrs So-and-So” When I hear “Sorry” on its own with no “I am” before it and no words after it it does not register as a sincere apology. In my mind I go “Sorry who? Sorry where? Sorry donkey”

“Sorry” is not a word that travels alone, it is incomplete without “I am sorry insert name/insert crime.

2. Buy your way out of an apology

I know people who cannot say sorry and instead, shower the people they have offended with gifts, the elephant in the room is never addressed. The room instead gets filled with flowers, lunch dates, a new pair of shoes or a pie from Orientals. I know a lot of Africans (parents) do this, they don’t apologise, some just substitute an apology with material things. I will eat the pie and I wouldn’t mind an apology shopping spree, but a spoken apology and acknowledgement of guilt would be nice too.


3. I’m sorry you took it that way/I’m sorry you got offended/I’m sorry you feel that way

No. Just throw the whole apology away.


This sounds like arrogance and an attempt to flee from the blame and cast it on the person whom you have wronged. You’re implying that you made no mistake and that the other person is at fault because they have feelings. An apology is about you (I) the aggressor acknowledging that something went wrong and you are taking responsibility. Instead of “I’m sorry you ___” how about “I’m sorry I did ___”

4. I’m sorry, but…

Whoa. I don’t know about you but the word “but” in an apology riles me up. Some may justify the “but” by saying “I am sorry, but I was just trying to help” The thing is

“Overtime we commit actions with intentions either good or bad which require forgiveness”

Emily Thorne

That means even if the intention was good, if the execution was poor and things ended in tears you may need to apologise.

The last thing I would like to say is that the most sincere apology is a CHANGE IN BEHAVIOUR, especially in long-term interactions like a family bond, friendship or a relationship. You could adhere to these guidelines when giving an apology but if you keep apologising for the same thing it ceases to appear genuine or heartfelt. If you’re always late, or always losing your cool and you keep apologising without showing signs of improvement then it becomes meaningless.