What to Do When Someone Doesn’t Accept Your Apology

So you messed up, and now you’re saying “I’m sorry.” The problem is, the person you’re apologizing to isn’t having it. It’s a tough spot to be in, but it happens. Watch to learn what to do when someone doesn’t accept your apology.



Stay steady and don’t take it back. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard someone apologize, the other person doesn’t accept it, and then they say, “Well nevermind, I’m wasn’t sorry anyway.” We are not third graders on a playground. You apologized for a reason, so while you might feel a little bit stunned by the person’s response, stay steady and calm, and leave the apologizy out there. Don’t take it back.


Don’t get defensive. Apologizing is vulnerable. You’re sticking your neck out there and leaving yourself open to the possibility of rejection. So when the person doesn’t accept your apology, you feel hurt and disappointed. You feel rejected. Notice these emotions for what they are, and sit with them, rather than flipping them and getting defensive. It’s natural to feel confused or hurt or rejected. So feel that, and resist the brain’s temptation to launch a counter attack.


Give them space. You know the phrase,”If at first you don’t succeed, try try again”? Well, that doesn’t apply here. At least not yet. Give the person some time and space to process the apology and their feelings. They may feel differently once they have some time. Whatever it was that prompted you to apologize was hurtful or disappointing enough. Don’t make it worse by crowding their space and disrespecting their wishes.


Show them with your actions. The age old phrase, “Actions speak louder than words” totally applies here. Show them you’re sorry by correcting whatever action prompted the apology in the first place. If you snapped at your partner, work to be more patient and compassionate across the next week. If you haven’t been checking in on a friend who needs it, double down on your efforts to be supportive. And if you didn’t carry your load on a project, offer to take the lead on the next project. Step up without being asked. Show the person that you’re sorry by learning from and correcting your mistake.


Revisit the issue. After some time has passed, and you’ve done these previously mentioned things, take an inventory of how the relationship feels. Does the person seemed to have moved forward? Does the relationship feel like it’s being repaired? If things still feel strained or tense, it might be worth gently revisiting, reminding the person that you haven’t forgotten or minimized what happened and what you’re still sorry and actively working to improve things.


It’s hard to say you’re sorry. And it can be even harder when someone doesn’t accept your apology. But that’s ok. People are allowed to not accept your apology or need some time to think. You can’t control what they say or do, but you can control what you say and do. So stay steady and calm, manage your emotions of rejection and hurt, and show your apology through consistent actions.


There’s no guarantee it will change the person’s mind, but it’s certainly likely to help.


Need some more help with your apology? Check out the one word that completely kills an apology.

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