The Art of the Apology

Debra Holland
6 min readApr 26, 2021

Making Amends Makes a Difference

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

“I can only say I’m sorry so many times.” Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark

In discussing apologies with a group of women, one of them said, “I can’t remember the last time, I heard my husband apologize … for anything. (Long pause.) Actually, I can remember the last time. He didn’t mean it.” The other women in the group chorused, “So it doesn’t count.”

What is an Apology?

An expression of remorse.

A way to make amends.

A statement of connection … of reaching out.

The calling of a truce.

A way to show understanding of the pain and/or difficulties caused by one’s words or actions.

A powerful statement leading to healing.

A bridge between the pain and upset of the present to the healing of the future.

An acknowledgment of the other person as a human being who has feelings that need to be taken care of.

A statement of empathy.

An Apology Helps Strengthen the Foundation of a Relationship

No relationship is perfect. Both partners make mistakes or inadvertently cause stress or pain to the other. The ability to apologize helps make for a smoother relationship, especially a marriage.

If you know you can go to your partner with something that bothers you, and your loved one will listen, validate your feelings, and apologize, then you develop more trust. This in turn leads to greater emotional intimacy.

The Power of an Apology

I’ve met people who’ve had pain and/or resentment for years after an upsetting incident, all because they didn’t receive a sincere apology at the time.

Other times, years of little hurts and annoyances, not soothed away by apologies, build up a wall between a couple. This lessens their feelings of intimacy, love, and trust.

In couples counseling, I’ve seen bad relationships turn around because the couples finally were able to share, listen, validate, and sincerely apologize for the things that…

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Debra Holland

Debra Holland, M.S., Ph.D, is a psychotherapist, corporate crisis and grief counselor, and New York Times and USA Today bestselling author.