Saying sorry when you’re wrong is hard enough—now imagine saying it when you aren’t wrong. The truth is that, even when we are wrong, we don’t entirely admit that. The human ego is fragile and stubborn. When we are found to be in the wrong, we still believe, in our small ways, that the other party is at fault in some way. Maybe we’ll concede that we are the most at fault, but it’s hard to say we’re entirely at fault. So since we’re so stubborn in that regard, it’s obviously very hard to say you’re sorry when you know, without a doubt, that the other person is in the wrong. You might be wondering, “Well, when would I have to do that?” Plenty of times. Getting what you want in life is all about diplomacy and diplomacy is not all about speaking your mind. It’s about navigating conversations, carefully, to get the desired outcome. And sometimes, that means apologizing when you didn’t do anything wrong.
When your mom feels neglected
Moms always feel that we don’t call enough, don’t visit enough, and don’t care enough. It’s the plight of being a mom. You can take a full week off work, use all your vacation days, and buy an expensive plane ticket to visit your mom and in the end, she’ll complain that you didn’t stay an extra day. Don’t give her a speech about the plane ticket and the vacation days. Just say, “You’re right. I’m sorry. I really wish I could stay longer.” She just loves you and misses you.
When the person is going through a lot
Sometimes, the people we love are just going through a lot. A divorce. Loss of a job. Loss of a loved one. And when they are going through this, they are sensitive. They can perceive slights that are not there. Try to pick up on the times when maybe your good friend is too wounded to hear a speech on how she is being irrational and you didn’t do anything wrong. Just say sorry for now. Later, when she’s better, she’ll probably look back and realize she was irrational.
When your boss thinks you messed up
If your boss thinks you made a mistake due to complete incompetence or negligence, and you have a long, drawn-out explanation of how the mistake occurred that would show you were actually thinking quite critically, don’t give it. Just apologize, and fix the issue. Bosses don’t want excuses: they want solutions.
When you hurt a friend’s feelings
You failed to call after she had a baby and check on her. You failed to send flowers when her mother passed away. Maybe you actually sent her a card for her newborn, and it got lost in the mail. Or you’d planned on making her food to console her over the loss of her mother. She doesn’t really need to hear all that. She just wants your love and attention. Apologize for not being there enough, and ask what you can do now.
When you hurt a partner’s feelings
Picking the fight and proving you’re right is almost never worth it in a relationship. The truth is that sometimes, you won’t see eye to eye on issues. Trying to prove your point only drags out the conflict, and postpones the phase when you are getting along again.
Making amends for someone else’s sake
There will be times in life when you have to apologize to someone you can’t stand and with whom you do not agree on anything, but for somebody else’s sake. For example, you may need to apologize to your stepparent, when you did nothing wrong, just because having you two fight is breaking your biological parent’s heart.
When a roommate is displeased
Keeping the peace at home is so important. When you’re in a fight with your roommate, you don’t feel at home in your own home. So if your roommate is determined that it was your turn to take out the trash, and you could dig up proof it was yours, just apologize and take it out. Don’t let it sit there, trying to prove your point.
When it was someone else’s fault at work
Sometimes, someone else’s mistake at work will reflect poorly on you. You naturally want to explain to your displeased boss that it wasn’t your fault—it was somebody else’s. But, again, bosses want solutions and not excuses. And doing this just makes you look like you throw people under the buss. Apologize and fix the issue.
When a friend feels excluded
So you hosted a small dinner party of all couples, and didn’t invite your one single friend since she just went through a breakup and you felt making her a seventh wheel would make her sad. You were trying to spare her feelings. But her feelings are just hurt. Spare her the excuses. Apologize for making her feel left out and tell her you always love her company and it was a big misunderstanding.
When you hurt a sibling’s feelings
Do what you can to get along with your siblings. Maybe you have a sensitive sibling, who is hurt if she’s the last one to receive news or if she’s left off a text thread. She just loves you and wants to feel close, so when you tell her she’s being a brat, she doesn’t feel loved or close. Apologize, and include her more next time.
When your family upset your partner
Your family might be accidentally rude to your partner. They are the way they are. It’s going to be impossible to get them to change their long-held, deep-seated, stubborn ideas and values and understand that they wronged your partner. You’ll just have to apologize to him, for them, in this case.
Almost any time with in-laws
No matter what happened, it’s always important to stay in the good graces of your in-laws. No matter what goes down. They will be your support system. They will be your free babysitters. They will be there for you when your own family isn’t. Just apologize if it will fix things.
Especially surrounding in-law decorum
If the issue with the in-laws is surrounding decorum—like they want you to cover up your tattoos when having lunch with their church friends—just play along. You don’t see your in-laws every day. And when it comes to matters of decorum, they’re set in their ways.
If it gets you money
Always ask yourself if not apologizing could mean that you lose out on money. Maybe it could mean your landlord fights harder to hold onto your security deposit or a business partner takes you to court over perceived financial damages. You’d be amazed how often what someone really wants, more than keeping your money from you, is an apology.
If it lets you stay in your home
So you did something that didn’t quite break a rule with your landlord or roommate, but it came close. You have your excuses. In fact, you could list the things the other person did wrong that were quite similar. Don’t do it. At the end of the day, being right isn’t worth having to pack up and move.