Last week I wrote about various types of apologies we make in our day to day and professional lives. Some are easier than others to make. Some are extremely difficult.

This week I would like to talk about when we are on the receiving end of an apology. How to accept an apology.

Imagine that you are apologising to someone. You have worked up the nerve, you may think you are right or wrong, or be apologising for a mistake. Whatever it is, it takes effort and a certain amount of courage. Sometimes a lot of courage.

What is the worst reaction you can expect? And the best?

Have a think back to the times when someone has accepted an apology from you. How did your opinion of them change?

If it changed for the better, how did they react?

If it changed for the worse, what made that so?

What about if they didn’t accept it? How did that change your opinion of them?

It takes courage to admit fault and make an apology.

But how you accept, or not, that apology reflects on you. For better or for worse. It is your responsibility to accept a genuine apology with good grace.

So, how does one do that?

  1. However hard it may be, look the person in the eye and smile
  2. Thank them for the apology, with no ifs or buts or recriminations
  3. If you need time to think about it, ask them if they would mind giving you this time
  4. Refer to the future. What can we do now to fix this? Let’s go for a coffee and have a chat. Open the lines of communication.
  5. Wait until the situation has calmed down before going over the cause of or need for the apology – a step back, a breather, a bit of emotional detachment from the issue at hand will help both of you see things clearly
  6. If you have any doubt at all that this person was 100% responsible for whatever happened, tell them that. Stop them from beating themselves with a stick. If applicable, accepting your own share of the responsibility is both kind and humble.

And if your relationship, professional or person with this person is going to work out DON’T:

  • Gloat
  • Rub their noses in it
  • Abuse your perceived position of strength
  • Refuse to accept any part in the responsibility, if applicable
  • Use the mistake against them in a personal argument at a future date (of course, mistakes may go on employees’ records, impact pay reviews etc., but this needs to be done with tact in professional discussions)

Remember: it takes courage to apologise. It takes kindness, grace and empathy to genuinely accept that apology. You, being the awesome person you are, can do that.


Photo credit: Stuart Miles at

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