How to Respond to an Apology When You’re Still Hurt

If someone has hurt you and then offered an apology, it can be difficult to know how to respond, especially if you’re still hurting.

So what do you do? How do you move forward after an apology is given? Do you accept the apology and move on, or do you still hold onto the hurt and refuse to forgive?

According to experts, here are ways to respond to an apology when you’re still hurt:

Alison Gomez, LMFT

Alison Gomez

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

It’s okay not to say, “it’s okay”

There is this expectation that when someone apologizes, it is necessary to accept the apology or say that the situation was “okay.” 

Let’s understand the fact of a genuine apology:

  • It is important to take accountability for damages done
  • It is crucial to make repairs or amends to the one who was harmed

This does not mean you have to accept an apology while still processing the damage done. 

If you are still feeling hurt, upset, or angry, it is valid to hear and acknowledge the apology without fully accepting it. 

Know your options. If you are still upset about what has occurred, there are options to move forward:

You can accept the apology and ask for space to continue processing what happened

Accepting an apology does not mean that you are “okay” with what happened but that you understand and appreciate the effort to make amends. 

You can accept the apology and continue to ask for space, not as a form of punishment but rather to let you process and heal through the experience that happens.

Related: How to Forgive Someone Who Hurt You Emotionally

You can decline the apology

If you truly do not want to accept the apology, don’t

There is this pressure that if you do not accept the apology after someone apologized, you’re creating trouble. 

For instance, in the movie Home Alone, Buzz has harmed Kevin in many ways and gives a performative apology to appease the family. Kevin didn’t accept it and was punished. While this is a movie, the same pressures and expectations can still be felt, making declining an apology tricky.

There may be a few reasons why you may not want to accept the apology:

  • You’re still processing what is happening
  • You’re still upset about what happened, and it would be difficult to truly hear the apology
  • You simply do not want to accept the apology because a boundary was crossed

I cannot stress enough how it is not required for you to accept an apology. 

You can be diplomatic and firm in saying that you do not accept the apology and if you have the emotional space to talk about why, share it with them. If you do not, you do not need to give anyone an explanation. If they persist, and it’s safe to leave—leave. 

Nirmala Bijraj, LMHC, NCC

Nirmala Bijraj

Licensed Mental Health Counselor | Founder and CEO, Aligned Self

Be brief and get directly to the point

I would say the first thing to do is figure out what you feel hurt about and communicate that directly to the person so that they are aware of it and ask them to change or not do the behavior, action, or words again. 

Sometimes being brief is best; it allows you to share your feelings without overcomplicating and overthinking your response and getting directly to the point.

Related: How to Stop Overthinking Everything 

Sometimes when we are hurt, it is expressed in other emotions such as anger, frustration, sadness, and so on, depending on a person’s unique life experiences. 

So having a brief, direct response sometimes allows you not to bring those emotions into the conversation, making less defensiveness to the person you are talking to. 

An example of this would be: 

“Thank you for apologizing and taking responsibility for your actions. I appreciate it. However, your actions/words still hurt me. I’m not ready for us to go back to things as usual. 

I hope you understand. We can work on rebuilding the trust within this relationship over time. I will let you know when I’m ready for us to start working on that.” 

This kind of response allows you to express: 

  • your feelings, 
  • your hurt, 
  • and what you are looking for next from this person.

Sometimes it also helps to write/journal or talk to a friend or an impartial third party like a therapist to figure out: 

  • What you’re feeling
  • Why you’re feeling it
  • How to communicate this to the person

Clear communication in a calm tone is important to get your feelings across

It’s also okay to not accept an apology and let the person know that you appreciate them apologizing. 

However, you are still hurt and are not ready to accept their apology and will let them know when you’re ready to do so and thank them for understanding and respecting your boundaries with this.

It’s important to have this open dialogue so that resentment does not build-up, which can cause even more difficulties later. 

Accepting an apology does not mean condoning the behavior, so it’s vital to clearly verbalize that the behavior cannot continue. Clear, concise communication in a calm tone is important to get your feelings across.

Mike Cundall

Mike Cundall

Associate Professor of Philosophy | Founder, Mirth Management | Author, The Humor Hack

Be committed to getting over the negative feelings

One of the main things to realize is that apology and forgiveness are not simply acts; they’re processes we engage in to repair and maintain relationships.

Related: What Is Forgiveness and Why Is It Important?

In fact, they’re some of the only ways we can repair relationships when things go wrong. And since we’re creatures prone to make mistakes, things go wrong. As a result, we must find ways to resolve our issues. 

It’s perfectly fine to accept an apology and still feel hurt as long as one is committed to overcoming the resentment and hurt.

I think one of the great mistakes of our modern world is that we believe that doing something, like giving an apology, automatically means things are good. 

Relationships, apologies, and forgiveness take time. An apology isn’t just a statement; it’s a commitment born over time.

The main goal of an apology is recognizing that I hurt someone and that by apologizing, I knew it was wrong and promising that I don’t behave like that in the future. 

In apologizing, I am committing to repairing the relationship. But that doesn’t mean that the person I am apologizing to simply comes out the other side feeling all better. That’s not how emotions work. They can linger. 

The main thing that one has to understand is that, like the apologizer who’s committed to doing better in the future, the forgiver, in order to accept the apology, must realize that they’re committed to getting over the negative feelings like anger and hurt. 

The past will never change; the act will always be done. If I am the one trying to accept the apology, and I say that I do, then if I can’t get over the hurt and or anger, I haven’t accepted it. 

I can still be hurt, but as long as I don’t hold that against the person who wronged me, as long as I am working toward repairing and maintaining this new relationship, then that’s all we can ask.

People who still feel hurt shouldn’t judge themselves as holding a grudge or being too sensitive. They need to try and understand why the hurt remains. 

  • Is the harm still too fresh in memory? 
  • Have they not expressed how much they felt hurt by the person? 
  • Perhaps they’re avoiding something? 

One can accept the apology and clarify that they still feel hurt. 

If in time, the hurt remains, then more work needs to be done. But the expectation is that if the person really accepts the sincere apology, the pain will go away. 

As they see the person who hurt them treat them better over time, they’re likely not going to focus on the harm but on the new relationship that exists.

William Rivers

William Rivers

Founder and Chief Editor, Seniorstrong

Expressing that you are hurt and you need space is reasonable

If someone hurts you and then goes on to apologize in the sincerest way possible, you are not obliged to accept their apology right away. Expressing that you are hurt and need space is reasonable. 

You can use certain sentences or adopt obvious body language to project your dissatisfaction.

  • Example: “I’m glad you realized your mistake, but I need more time.”

Outrightly saying you need more time is a great way to show the state of your mind. This sentence works well in all situations. Say this is when you don’t want to sound too rude or wish to cave into the pressure of accepting a “sorry.” 

Not everyone is a quick forgiver. It’s okay if you are one of those people who need time to get past a bad experience with self-reflection and want to figure out what went wrong on your own.

Related: Why Is It so Hard to Forgive Someone?

Walk away saying you are happy that they realize their fault but can’t simply forget everything following an apology.

  • Example: “I am not ready to accept your apology yet.” 

This sentence is apt to make someone realize the gravity of their action. 

Apologies should come from the heart and must be accepted with a free mind, so there is no strain in the relationship. If you are not ready to take the apology with an open heart, then no good can come from being pretentious and generous. 

You have the right to stay furious till you are ready to make amends

Say, “I am not ready to accept your apology yet,” or “I need more time to process everything,” and put a full stop to the conversation.

Sometimes processing the whole argument/misunderstanding becomes too difficult, let alone processing the apology that follows, as you need more time without being remorseful about it. 

If you are on the receiving end of the apology, accept it once you have fully processed the incident. Show your dissent by saying the mentioned sentences above coldly instead of relying on the mandatory phrase “it’s okay” to hide your true feelings.

Sarah McDugal

Sarah McDugal

Abuse Recovery Coach | Founder, Wilderness to WILD

Respond to the hurt from a place of strength

It can feel excruciating to listen to someone apologize when you’re still hurting deeply due to what they said or did. Sometimes the other person is ready to apologize before we are prepared to receive it, which can create additional tension. 

Own your emotions

Someone caused you pain. Now you have to decide what to do with that pain:

  • Will you stuff it away and pretend that their apology made everything okay? 
  • Will you ignore the hurt and let it fester? 
  • Or will you give yourself the gift of looking your hurt square in the face, addressing it honestly and truthfully, and then allowing yourself time to heal?

Safety comes first

There’s no rule saying you must respond by accepting someone’s apology or offering forgiveness immediately, especially if you still feel unsafe. 

The first priority is to ensure you are safe and have stability so that you can eventually respond to the hurt from a place of strength. But you can’t do that effectively if you’re still afraid or dysregulated. 

When our emotions run high, thinking rationally and logically becomes much more challenging.

We quickly end up saying things we regret, not necessarily because we mean them, but because we were operating under emotional hijack due to: 

  • fear
  • anger
  • grief
  • hurt 

When the other person tries to repair the damage done, our own emotions can lash out, and instead of fixing it, we end up further damaging the relationship. 

Have a few standard responses beforehand

One way to prevent this increased damage is to have a few standard responses beforehand. 

This way, you don’t have to try to come up with something reasonable when feelings are intense. These scripted responses might sound like:

  • “Thank you for being willing to apologize. I need more time before I’m able to discuss it in a healthy way.”
  • “I’m still really hurt right now, and I need space to process my thoughts to better communicate with you.”
  • “I’d like to discuss this, but I’m just not ready yet. I’m willing to let you know when I feel like I’m able to have a conversation about it.”

Using safe, neutral responses such as these can help you remain calm while still setting boundaries around the time you need to process and recover from the hurt.

Nancy Landrum, MA

Nancy Landrum

Relationship Coach | Creator, The Millionaire Marriage Club

Sometimes the one who has offended you wants to deliver a quick apology so the event will disappear. The offender doesn’t want to hear the pain caused by their words or actions. 

Yet trying to “fix” the upset without being willing to hear the painful consequences of their behavior is premature

Briefly share your feelings

When you can’t let go of the hurt, you may answer, I’m willing to forgive you after you hear my feelings. Are you willing to listen? Then briefly share your feelings.

Another option is that the current event triggered memories of a previous pain that hasn’t been healed. 

When the offender is genuinely repentant, and the hurt won’t go away, ask yourself these questions: 

  • When have I felt this feeling before? 
  • What happened then? 
  • Who was involved? 
  • How much of the pain today is legitimately about the current event?
  • How much of it is buried pain from the past that I haven’t processed and healed?

On one occasion like this, I realized that only 5% was due to the current event, and 95% was from events in my childhood that I needed, finally, to vent about and process the healing.

Set appropriate boundaries to prevent a repetition of the hurtful behavior

Another possibility is granting forgiveness, but realizing the situation requires an appropriate boundary to prevent a repetition of the hurtful behavior. 

At one time, my elder son apologized for lying to me about his use of drugs while living with us. I forgave him, but the following day, I realized that I was so stunned by his admission that a formal agreement was necessary for him to continue living with us. 

I needed to be protected from being manipulated by his lies and drug use in the future. So I wrote a contract boundary stating the rules he must adhere to stay in our home.

Related: 20+ Signs Your Child Is Manipulating You

There were consequences if he didn’t obey our house rules. This boundary setting was the final step in disconnecting from a lifetime habit of codependence with this son. Although it was very painful, it liberated us both.

Adam D. Blum, MFT

Adam Blum

Licensed Psychotherapist | Founder, Gay Therapy Center

Start with appreciation

A sincere apology requires vulnerability, and so it deserves recognition.

Trust yourself that you will know from their: 

  • tone of voice, 
  • word choice, 
  • and body language 

if their apology is sincere

Apologies by text are ineffective because they don’t give you these essential clues.

You will need to know that they understand how you felt when they hurt you

Saying “I’m sorry” is an excellent start to a conversation, but it is only the beginning. Most of us need to hear more than a short phrase to repair a relationship.

To ultimately forgive someone, you will need to know that they understand how you felt when they hurt you. 

Their job is to really listen and make an effort to understand you. When they eventually express empathy and validate your experience, you’ll be much closer to forgiving them.

Share your experience rather than commenting on their bad behavior

Forgiving someone is not a passive process. To resolve a breach in a relationship takes work for both partners. Your job is to share the details of what you experienced when they said or did that painful thing. If you felt betrayed, it’s important to tell them why.

It works best if your focus is on sharing your experience rather than commenting on their bad behavior. This reduces the chance that they will feel attacked and get defensive.

Understand each other’s experience

Each member must stretch to understand the other’s experience for a successful relationship repair. This takes patience, and the two of you may have to repeat the uncomfortable conversation several times to put the incident behind you.

Dr. Jaclyn Gulotta, LMHC

Jaclyn Gulotta

Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Choosing Therapy

Acknowledge the person’s vulnerability in apologizing

When someone apologizes, and you still feel hurt, you can still acknowledge their actions. You can simply thank them for taking accountability and let them know you still need time to process your own emotions. 

Be in the moment and listen

Being in the moment and just listening to the person who is apologizing is all you need to do. If you do not feel you want to say anything or are not ready to speak about the situation, just listening to them can be what you need to hear to move forward. 

Let them know where you stand and set clear boundaries

Remember that just because someone apologizes, you are not obligated to forgive them at that moment. You can still let them know where you stand. 

You don’t have to be confrontational while being assertive at the same time. You can have a calm and respectful conversation to tell someone if you need space. 

Just let them know what you need for your personal healing and set those clear boundaries.

Express how you feel

When you still feel hurt after someone apologizes, you can express your feelings. Again, you can thank them for apologizing and share if you are still upset and hurt. 

Sharing your feelings allows the person to understand why this hurts you and hopefully helps them to know how to handle the situation differently next time.

Kimberly Perlin, MSW, LCSW-C

Kimberly Perlin

Licensed Clinical Social Worker | Psychotherapist

Try not to interrogate the speaker about how sorry they are

Respond to the effort of making an apology, for example, “Thank you for reaching out and apologizing.” 

Respond as if they have the best intentions and try not to interrogate the speaker about how sorry they are. For example, when we are still angry, we can question the sincerity of another’s apology—fight that urge. 

Respond with the feelings you identify in mind

If they had the best of intentions, what would they be feeling? How would you want to respond if they had the best intentions? Respond with the feelings you identify in mind. This way of thinking makes it easier to respond to your best self. 

If you agree with any part of their apology, state the agreement. For example, “I agree I don’t want to fight either.” 

If you cannot agree with the apology, try to agree with the feelings behind the statements. For example, “I see you are really confused about why I am angry. I am sure that is hard for you.” 

Often when the emotions behind the words are identified and validated, there is less defensiveness and ill will toward one another.  

Re-affirm the relationship

Say, “I still love you” or “I value our friendship.” Then state you are taking time to think about what they said and will form a response when you have your thoughts together. 

Sara Macke

Sara Macke

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Consider how much of your emotions you want to protect

Everyone can say whatever they want, any time, in any way. That’s the power of freedom of speech. However, you’re not expected to respond simply because someone engages with you. 

If you experienced conflict with someone and they’re ready to process, take a moment. Are you ready to process? 

  • Honor yourself
  • Consider how you feel
  • Consider the timing of the apology

Does it feel right? If you’re not ready, let’s talk about how to respond. 

Consider how much of your emotions you want to protect—Is this person safe? Do you feel comfortable? 

  • Response to a loved one or friend: “I appreciate your words. I’m still processing it and will get back to you when I feel ready.”
  • Response to someone who really hurt you: “I hear what you’re saying. I appreciate the effort. I’m just not ready to move forward yet and need additional time to think about how I feel.”
  • Response to someone unsafe (consider not being around the person alone if that’s the case): “Thank you for taking the time to apologize. I hear what you’re saying. I think some space is still important at this moment.”

I always encourage my clients to return to the conversation within 48 hours to check-in. 

  • If you still need time, share that. 
  • If you are ready to process, go for it. 
  • If the person isn’t safe, keep your boundary and maintain your level of safety.

Katie Ziskind, BS, MA, MFT, LMFT

Katie Ziskind

Licensed Holistic Marriage and Family Therapist | Owner, Wisdom Within Counseling

Talk about what behaviors or actions caused you to feel hurt 

Apologizing can open the door for a stronger friendship and better relationship. Apologizing when hurt can bring up anger, so counseling can be a safe place to talk about these feelings. 

If you feel wronged, your therapist can help you learn to let go and take ownership of the hurt you’ve caused. Learning communication skills in therapy can also help you know how to appropriately apologize and validate another’s feelings. 

Apologizing can be liberating and healing when done appropriately. If you are still hurting, journaling about your feelings can be a great way to gain clarity

When you’re hurt, the person you’re apologizing to is often also hurt. Therefore, apologizing can help repair an important relationship. It can foster a needed conversation that can bring about an opportunity to heal and repair. 

When you’re still hurt, don’t apologize over text or emails, but take the time to meet in person. Often, text and email conversations are taken the wrong way and are less relationship-oriented. 

If someone apologizes and you’re still hurt, talk about it with them. Be honest that you’re still hurting and admit that your feelings were hurt. 

Talk about what behaviors or actions caused you to feel hurt or a certain way rather than blaming them for causing you hurt. 

Share calmly and openly about how you value and appreciate them apologizing and coming to you. Know that it is okay to still be hurt and that healing takes time. 

Dr. Danielle Clark

Danielle Clark

Business Professor and Intuitive Life Coach

Speak your truth and give yourself space

When we’ve been recently hurt, it’s common to experience a range of emotions: anger, confusion, betrayal, and more. 

That’s why it’s critical not to react and instead to thoughtfully respond to someone, especially if it’s someone we care about.

Here are a few phrases to consider that will help you speak your truth while giving yourself the time and space you need to heal so that when you reconnect with this person (if you decide to), you can have a balanced heart-centered conversation with no regrets. 

Feel free to mix and match sentences to create a response that feels right to you:

  • “Thank you. Please know that I’m not in a space to fully receive your apology. I’ll circle back with you when I’ve had time to process everything. I kindly ask that you don’t reach out to me until then.”
  • “I appreciate the acknowledgment. I value our relationship and want to talk this out when I’m in a better place. Can we table this conversation for now?”
  • “I hear you, but at this time, I’m not sure I can accept your apology. I don’t want to communicate with you at this time. In the future, I will reach out if I feel it’s best for me.”  

Megan Tarmann, MS, LMFT

Megan Tarmann

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Rooted Wisdom Counseling

Be honest with yourself and the other person

Take the time to pause when receiving an apology, as it can be easy to convince ourselves that we “should” move past something once that apology is spoken. 

We must honor our feelings and our healing process when feeling hurt. 

Use “I feel, I need” statements

Once you can identify what you’re feeling after receiving an apology, name that with an “I feel” statement. 

For example, “I am feeling disappointed.” Add to the I feel statement by including an “I need” statement. This might sound like, I feel disappointed, and I need some space from this relationship.” 

Be concise

Difficult conversations can get off track for so many reasons. Think of your response as a broken record and continue to come back to how you are feeling and what you need. 

Resist the urge to dive into the past or the future. 

Rev. Isaac C. Hayes

Isaac C. Hayes

President, Healing of the Soul Ministries

The best thing to do when we are hurt is to accept the offender’s apology

Hurt suggests that harm has been inflicted. Depending upon the severity of the injury, the hurt can vary in duration. 

What’s important to understand is that an apology is an ask for forgiveness. Theologically, anytime people sin against us, i.e., hurt us, they incur debt with us. Hence the term “forgive.”

The problem with refusing to accept an apology is that we continue to carry unnecessary debt in our lives. As with our finances, we want to live debt-free because debt is bad

The best thing we can do when we are hurt is to accept the offender’s apology because the longer we hold on to the debt, the longer it will hold us hostage to the moment we were injured. 

Now, this doesn’t mean that we will experience some mystical amnesia that wipes our minds of the experience, but it does mean that we choose not to let that moment control the remainder of our lives.

So here’s what we should do:

  1. First, we should thank the person for apologizing because it is a recognition on his part that he has created relational debt. 
  2. Second, we should express to them how that injury made us feel. It’s our chance to calmly and thoughtfully communicate how we were injured. 
  3. Third, we should ask them what they felt that caused them to respond in such a manner because “hurt people, hurt people.” 
  4. Finally, for Christians, we should pray together with that person by asking God to heal all parties involved in this situation. 

Reconciliation is the message of the Bible, and mended relationships can be exceptionally fruitful when everyone is willing to grow from the experience.

Christy Piper

Christy Piper

Relationship Coach | Author, Girl, You Deserve More

Give second chances and treat the apologizer with grace

When someone apologizes, they are extending an olive branch. They know they screwed up and want to repair the relationship.

If you’re still hurt, but someone apologizes, they know they hurt you. So even if you’re still hurt or upset, this may be the first step to help your healing.

Apologizing involves some vulnerability. On the most basic level, it means they wronged you. And they know it. It also means they care enough to admit they were wrong.

Remember this key: they want to patch things up. The question is—do you want to patch things up? 

If you want to patch things up, it’s essential to accept the apology with grace. 

  • Thank them for the apology. 
  • Recognize the bravery and humility it took them to apologize. 
  • But it’s not necessary to make a big deal out of it. 
  • Keep your cool.

If you don’t want to patch things up, it is usually best to be graceful anyway. One reason is that you will look like a jerk if you respond rudely, even if the other person was the one who initially screwed up. 

As a result, they will remember your negative response instead of their rude initial actions. If you treat them like a jerk, it may confirm their action of mistreating you. It may even restart an even bigger disagreement and cause them to spread rumors about you.

Another reason is that it’s good to respond respectfully when others show humility. You can never go wrong with being the more graceful person.

True apology vs. fake apology

How you respond outwardly will be similar either way. But you’ll feel different on the inside, depending on their intention. 

If you feel the apology isn’t genuine, it’s best not to call them out. Keep that information to yourself. Know that you need to be careful in the future if the person isn’t genuinely sorry.

Another thing that can happen—even if their apology is initially half-hearted, they may change their mind. If you start treating their apology as if it were real with your actions, they may feel like it was real.

So your behavior towards them can dictate whether the apology ends up being real or not.

Protect your heart, but it’s good to give second chances and treat an apologizer with grace. You may be surprised what ends up happening when you treat an apology seriously.

If you’re unsure what to make of an apology in your specific situation, it can help to talk it over with a trusted friend or hire a coach.

Mel Williams

Mel Williams

Relationship Expert | Lifestyle Coach, Healing Is Sexy

Hearing an apology can be hard for a lot of people because an apology is an admission of an offense, and it forces you to acknowledge that you’ve been hurt. 

But conflict is a part of life, and you must learn to give and receive apologies.

Allow the person to share their apology and just listen without interruption

Do a mental check. Remember that even if you feel you are “owed” an apology, you should acknowledge the courage it takes to humble yourself and give one. 

In other words, even when you’re hurt, don’t treat an apology like an entitlement. Allow the person to share their apology and just listen without interruption. 

You are in receive mode, and there is no need for you to interject or start questioning until you’ve given them a chance to present their apology.

Next, you want to check in with yourself and feel if the apology rings true. Do you believe the apology is sincere? Or is it just for show to get you to overlook the pain they caused?

Here’s what to look for in a sincere apology:

  1. Complete ownership. Even if you played a role, they should only focus on their part and own responsibility for that.
  2. A statement of change. How will they change their behavior to prevent a repeat offense?
  3. Understanding of the pain it caused you. This is a bonus if they communicate consideration and concern for what the experience must have looked like for you. An example is saying, “I can only imagine what you must have felt or experienced…” 

genuine apology usually has the power to quickly heal the hurt you may still be carrying. If not in that moment, allow yourself time to process the apology and come around to letting your guard down once more. 

Just like you’re not entitled to an apology, you also don’t owe the other person a reaction or quick forgiveness if you still need more time to process the hurt you’ve experienced.

Lindsey Mannon, LCSW

Lindsey Mannon

Therapist, Malaty Therapy

“It will take some time for me to heal and recover”

“I feel grateful and heard by your apology, yet I’m (emotionally) bruised. Like a bruise, the subject still hurts and it will take some time for me to heal and recover.”

“I still feel uncomfortable about it”

“I’m glad you recognize that your actions have hurt me. I felt very small when you said that about me and still feel uncomfortable about it. Next time, please tell me when you’ve had a bad day and ask for space.”

“I am still hurt and will need some time”

“Thank you for recognizing that what you did (or said) was not okay. I respect you enough to tell you that I am still hurt and will need some time. I felt very uncomfortable when you said those things about me to others, and it will take time to trust that it won’t happen again.”

Laura DeKraker Lang-Ree

Laura DeKraker Lang-Ree

Childhood Cancer and Women’s Advocate

Accept the apology and tend to your hurt as you move past the situation

I feel deeply. It’s just a fact. I’m awed when I see somebody shake off an argument quickly and move on, like a duck shaking its feathers after a fight! 

Empaths need help responding to an apology, and there are concrete strategies around the art of accepting an apology, even when you are still hurting.

Nine times out of 10, responding from a place of hurt just ignites the issue even further as unintentional (or intentional!) barbs fly across the room. 

We secretly hope the other person feels even just a little bit of the hurt we feel from the confrontation. This strategy, although understandable, merely drags out the situation, which is not helpful, especially when somebody is offering an apology.

One thing I’ve learned about having an argument, especially with somebody you love, is that there is a huge difference between letting go of the hurt and forgiveness. 

Forgiveness is free and serves both you and the person who hurt you equally. Forgiving somebody openly and quickly after they apologize helps:

  • Diffuse the situation
  • Open up space for connection
  • Take the heat down a notch

Can you still be upset with them? Yep. And, you can forgive them at the same time. Accept. Surrender to the apology fully, and tend to your hurt as you move past the situation. 

Sameera Sullivan

Sameera Sullivan

Relationship Expert, Sameera Sullivan Matchmakers

Tell them you appreciate their gesture but still need time

It is normal not to be able to accept an apology because sometimes the situation can be more complicated in terms of how you process it. And sometimes, a simple apology just might not cut it. 

You are not bound to accept someone’s apology because everyone is entitled to their own time. There are still other ways you can respond to being apologized to when you’re mad without sounding unreasonable or rude.

Since you are still feeling hurt, first off, take your time. Please do this by telling the person that even though you appreciate their gesture, you still need time to process your feelings.

If you do not accept their apology, be honest with them rather than holding onto resentment. Tell them that sorry does not cut it, and then you need to work harder than that to regain your trust.

Their intention might be correct, but their apology might be misdirected; in that case, tell them what they need to apologize for and how they did make you feel. And they need to do a better job at apologizing.

AJ Silberman-Moffitt

AJ Silberman-Moffitt

Senior Editor, Tandem

We’ve all been there. We get in a fight with our friend or our significant other, and we feel hurt. Your feelings are valid whether the other person meant to hurt you or not. 

But now that person who hurt you wants to apologize, yet you currently still feel hurt. How do you respond to it?

Let them apologize to you in the way that works for them

We might not fully control how we feel, but we can control what we say and do. 

Before doing anything, listen to the other person. Let them apologize to you in the way that works for them. Even if they say things that you don’t want to hear or disagree with, if they are making a sincere effort to apologize, it can be helpful to listen to them. 

You may learn something about the situation or the person you didn’t know before. Learning this information might sway how you feel, and you might find that you no longer feel as hurt.

Ask for more time

If you truly aren’t ready to listen to someone apologize to you, ask them for more time. It would probably be best if you explained your feelings to this person. 

You can say something such as, “I appreciate you are trying to apologize; however, I still feel hurt at the moment. Please give me some time to digest my feelings, and we can discuss this issue later?” 

They should respect your request for more time if they are genuinely apologetic. Hopefully, they will understand that different people deal with their hurt feelings in different ways.

Don’t lash out 

Two wrongs do not make a right. Just because you are hurt doesn’t mean that making the other person feel hurt will make things better. 

When they are apologizing, don’t lash out at them. 

  • Don’t make accusations
  • Don’t jump to conclusions
  • Don’t try to hold on to your anger 
  • Do your best to remain calm and prevent yourself from saying something you might regret later

When we are hurt, maintaining a sense of calm is easier said than done. But if we can remain calm, we might find that the apology was just the thing we needed to no longer feel hurt.

Emma Williams

Emma Williams

Chief Research Officer, HIGH5

Only respond and say something if you mean it

There’s no need to rush for a response. Sometimes, acknowledging the apology is enough. It’s neither accepting nor rejecting the apology. 

You’re simply letting the other party know that you have received the apology, and if you do not wish to make a response at the moment, you do not have to.

Take as much time as you need to sort out your emotions before responding. Only respond and say something if you mean it.

Tatiana Gavrilina

Tatiana Gavrilina

Content Marketing Writer, DDI Development

Don’t allow yourself to directly offend the other person with your response

I’ve had to deal with this kind of situation more than once. In the past, I have run away from the person I was offended by or hurt them back; now, I respond differently

My constant work on improving myself and my age, which means intelligence and experience, contribute to this.

Now, I think it’s much wiser to be honest about your feelings, but from the position of an adult, not a child. You can’t allow yourself to directly offend the other person with your response.

That’s how you can answer:

  • “Look, it’s hard for me to think right now; I need time to think. Let’s come back to this conversation later.”
  • “I’ll be honest; I’m hurting right now. I’m afraid to say too much. let’s just be quiet.”
  • “I would like to be alone now, please.”
  • “I’m actually in a lot of pain, shaking with anger, but I understand that you don’t want to hurt me, so help me, please be there for me.”

These are the answers that people I respect and I have used. I think these phrases will lead to mutual understanding and help avoid making the situation worse. 

After all, at the end of the day, we all want a peaceful resolution to the conflict, don’t we? 

April Maccario

April Maccario

Founder, AskApril

An apology is welcome after you get hurt or offended, but sometimes, it is not the right time to resolve your anger or hurt feelings yet. As a dating and relationship expert, everyone needs time to sort out their feelings and heal themselves. 

It is crucial to process your emotions and not rush into accepting an apology. Here’s how to respond to an apology despite your feelings:

Thank them for the apology and show goodwill

Thank them for the apology and show goodwill by listening to what they have to say. Respond by acknowledging efforts to make peace, but be honest about your emotions. Tell them if you need more time and ask for space.

Offer a compromise and work with them to gain trust

If time and distance do not lessen your anger or hurt, think about what the other person needs to do to make amends.

Be honest about your feelings. Let them know what needs to happen if an apology is not enough to repair the damage. Offer a compromise and work with them to gain your trust.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I make sure the person understands the impact of their actions?

It’s important that you clearly state how the person’s actions have affected you. You can express your feelings and also explain how the person’s actions have affected your relationship with them. However, it’s important not to attack or blame the person, as this can escalate the situation.

How can I move forward after accepting an apology?

Forgiveness is a process, and it’s important to be patient with yourself. It’s also important to set boundaries and communicate your needs. If the person’s actions were particularly hurtful, restoring the relationship might take some time. Remember to prioritize your own emotional well-being and take steps to care for yourself.

Can an apology be insincere?

Yes, an apology can be insincere if the person apologizing isn’t truly sorry for their actions or is only apologizing to avoid negative consequences. Signs of an insincere apology may include:

• Lack of eye contact or physical discomfort during the apology
• Vague or impersonal wording (“I’m sorry if you were offended”)
• Lack of effort to make amends or change one’s behavior
• Repeated apologies with no change in behavior

What can you do if you apologize but the other person doesn’t accept the apology?

When someone apologizes, but the other person doesn’t accept the apology, it’s important to respect their feelings and emotions. Here are some tips on how you can handle this situation:

• Acknowledge the other person’s feelings and the impact of your actions on them.
• Avoid becoming defensive or dismissive of their emotions.
• Ask if there is anything you can do to make amends or support them.
• Respect their boundaries and give them space when they need it.
• Keep working to change your behavior and make amends, even if the other person doesn’t immediately accept your apology.

Can a written apology be as effective as an in-person apology?

Yes, a written apology can be just as effective as a personal apology. The important thing is that the person takes responsibility for their actions, shows remorse, and acknowledges the impact of their behavior.

Should I apologize back?

It’s not necessary to apologize if the situation doesn’t call for it. However, it can be helpful to acknowledge the role you played in the situation and express a desire to move in a positive direction.

Can therapy help you work through hurts and learn how to respond to apologies?

Yes, therapy can be helpful in working through hurts and learning a healthy way to handle apologies. A therapist can provide a safe space to work through difficult emotions, and they can give you advice and strategies on how to move on in a healthy way.

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