Apologizing when both of you are wrong can help to mend the relationship. Hopefully, it is the first step to resolving the problem.
You don’t want it to create a wedge between the two of you or make you uncomfortable when you see each other. You don’t have to accept all of the blame, but you don’t have to assign it to the other party either.
If both are wrong, apologize for your part and give the other person time and space to explain their point of view. If this does not resolve the conflict, you should agree to disagree with them in a friendly manner.
Apologize for Your Part in It
When both of you were wrong, apologize for your part in it. This gives the other party the opportunity to do so as well.
They may choose to do so, but be ready in the event they don’t accept any responsibility for their role in it. They may not see the situation the same way you do.
Focus on your acceptance of responsibility only, you can’t control the behaviors of others.
What to Say:
“I feel like we were both wrong with how we acted and what we said. I accept my part in that and hope you will forgive me.”
“We both let our tempers get the best of us, and I am sorry I didn’t control my emotions better.”
“It is obvious we don’t see eye to eye on the subject, and I apologize. I am sure my view isn’t 100% right either.”
“My bad… I feel terrible that escalated as it did, please accept my apology for my behavior.”
“We both need to take a look at ourselves about how we reacted, it wasn’t right on either end, and we can do better.”
One of the huge challenges that can lead to conflict is differences in communication styles.
When you add in stress, lack of sleep, or being busy, it can change the dynamics of a conversation.
The emotions someone has can come across as something else too. For example, when someone is hurt, they may not communicate it successfully. Instead, it comes across as anger.
What to Say:
“I am sorry I got angry last night, I was hurt and it didn’t come across that way.”
“I think the fact that we are both feeling the pressure of this project and not getting adequate rest contributed to our argument, I feel bad that it happened.”
“I realize we communicate differently, but we have to find some common ground. I am sorry about the direction things went, and I want to get back on track.”
“Things got heated with us, and I apologize for that. What can we do to work as a team and communicate what we need/feel so that it doesn’t continue to happen?”
“I couldn’t sleep last night, worrying about what took place between us. I am not proud of my behavior and hope you accept my apology. We don’t communicate the same but that isn’t an excuse for either of us to act as we did.”
Reflect on Where They Were Right
It is easy to point out where someone is wrong, but when you reflect on where they were right, they are going to listen!
This doesn’t mean you feel they were 100% right, but it does show them you give them some merit for certain things. Try to be as specific as possible when you talk about it.
What to Say:
“I am sorry we had a disagreement; I don’t feel you were right about everything, but you did make some valid points. I do need to stop giving so much of my time to everyone else and I do need to follow through on the commitments I made. I can see how that is important and I will strive to do better.”
“I feel bad I had to work late, and you are right that I should have called. It was an important business meeting and I couldn’t make a call in the middle of it. I am sorry you worried about me and our plans for the evening have to be rescheduled.”
Misunderstandings and a lack of effective communication are often behind a situation getting out of control. You can apologize for your part in that, but don’t just let the situation go.
What caused them to act or react as they did? How can you turn this into a learning moment for both of you?
One way to do this is to ask them to share their thoughts with you.
What to Say:
“I am sorry about many things I said, I guess we don’t see the situation the same way. Can you share your thoughts with me on the subject? I would like to know your point of view to help with resolving the underlying issue.”
“Look, I am sorry for my part and I was wrong about some things. I would like you to enlighten me about why you feel your thoughts on it were correct? I may learn something if we can talk about it instead of arguing over it.”
“I feel awful that we fought, and I don’t yet know how to fix it. Do you mind talking to me and sharing your thoughts? What made you so mad? Why did you get upset when I mentioned ___? I think the more we share information the better we will both feel about what happened.”
Listen to What They Say
When you ask someone for their thoughts, you have to really listen! If you jump in as soon as they say something to argue it, they don’t feel valued. It takes skill and focuses to listen and not respond.
Give them all the time they need to talk while you listen, and then you can have your say.
Hopefully, they will give you the same respect.
What to Say:
“I appreciate you sharing all of that with me. I didn’t realize you felt like that. I have a few questions though. Can you clarify more about ___?”
“I can see how you may think that way, but I can assure you that wasn’t my intent. I am glad we can talk about it and clear up this misunderstanding.”
“Is there anything else you would like to add?”
“I have listened to you and now I hope you will show me the same courtesy while I share a few things with you.”
Agree to Disagree About the Topic
There are times when you know you aren’t going to get results talking about the issue. You have done so until you are blue in the face. When that happens, you can apologize for your part in it, but also stand firm that you agree to disagree.
Let them know you don’t hold any hard feelings about it, but you don’t plan to have the discussion with them again. This helps to clear the air and prevent the problem from turning into a cycle with them.
What to Say:
“I don’t want to fight with you over this and would like to extend an olive branch. Can we agree to disagree and move on? This is a hot topic for both of us, so I think it is best if we refrain from talking about it together anymore. There is so much more we can talk about that this doesn’t have to be a part of.”
“I don’t see it the same as you do, but I also respect your take on it. I am sorry for my part in the problem. In the future, I don’t think discussing politics with you is a good option as we have different belief systems about it.”
“I don’t want to walk on eggshells around you and hope you accept my apology. From this point forward I won’t bring up ___ with you as I know it isn’t going to be a good outcome for us to do so. Can you agree to do the same?”
Let Them Know They Matter to You
Do your best to preserve relationships when they matter to you. If it is a work colleague, at least try to clear the air so it isn’t an ongoing issue at work.
When you share that they matter to you, it will help them accept the apology and move on.
What to Say:
“Your friendship means the world to me. I don’t want to see us fight and I am sorry it happened. You have so many great qualities that I admire about you, and I don’t want this to get in the way of our friendship.”
“We have to work together, but that doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. I am willing to let this go, and if you feel that I was too harsh then I apologize.”
“I do respect you, even if we don’t agree on this issue. I don’t want to fight about it, and I wish that hadn’t happened between us like that.”
“If I could erase that entire conversation I would do so. I care about you very much, and I don’t want to upset you or hurt you in any way. I know I could have handled it better on my end but I let my emotions get the best of me.”
Sophie Hammond is a journalist, psychologist, and freelance speechwriter for people in politics and business. She lives on the edge of the Rocky Mountains with her dog and a lifetime supply of books. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through nature or journaling at a coffee shop.