Saying I’m Sorry: The One Word that Completely Kills an Apology

Saying I’m Sorry: The One Word that Completely Kills an Apology

Here’s a fact about relationships. We mess up. We speak out of anger. We forget important things. We minimize people’s pain. And we disappoint people we care about.


We don’t usually mean to mess up, but we do. And when we mess up, saying I’m sorry is usually in order. Owning up to our mistakes and apologizing is so important. And it turns out, saying I’m sorry can be a little trickier than you think.


I’ve written about how to apologize before (find that simple formula here), and today, I’m taking it a step further, sharing the simple word that absolutely kills an apology. It’s a tiny word, yet it does major damage. And it’s sneaking into your apology more than you realize.


Watch below to hear the word to avoid when saying I’m sorry, and learn what to say instead!



No matter how good your apology is, it can be diminished in an instant with one simple word. It might seem harmless, but I promise, it’s bigger than you think.


The word to watch out for when saying I’m sorry? “But.”


I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, but….

I’m sorry I lost my temper, but…

I’m sorry I forgot, but…


The word “but” negates what you said prior to it. It minimizes the impact of a genuine apology. The word “but” pushes the responsibility off of you and onto something or someone else.


The minute you speak those three little letters in an apology, your apology goes downhill. Because at that moment, you’re no longer accepting responsibility for your actions and the impact they had on the other person. And that’s part of what makes an apology so impactful.



So if you’re not supposed to say “but,” how should you word an apology? Two options. Embrace the word “and,” or embrace a period.


I’m sorry I wasn’t there on time. I said I would be, and I was running late.

I lost my temper; I’m sorry. I’m stressed, and I didn’t mean to take it out on you.

I hurt your feelings. I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking; it was insensitive of me.


Do you hear the difference? By getting rid of the “but” and embracing the period, you acknowledge the impact of your actions without trying to minimize the impact or explain away your responsibility.


Think about a recent time someone said, “I’m sorry” to you. Did they use the word “but” in their apology? If so, think about how that watered down the impact of their apology. It’s only three letters, but it makes a huge difference.


So next time you’re saying I’m sorry, watch out for the word “but.” It instantly kills an apology, layering on additional hurt and disappointment. Saying I’m sorry isn’t easy, but it’s important. Do it better. Your relationships will thank you.


PS: Try this before saying I’m sorry next time. It will help!

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