How to apologise to someone you’ve hurt

This week, Nectarine Girl tackles a prickly topic: saying sorry to a friend, partner, family member or colleague you’ve rubbed up the wrong way. Luckily for us, this is something she’s well acquainted with…

Welcome to a weekly life and relationships column by Iris Owen, aka Nectarine Girl – the reigning queen of Depop, fame-hungry wordsmith, and author of the wackiest newsletter in London, Nectarine News.

Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody, as Hannah Montana so rightly sang in her 2007 anthem Nobody’s Perfect, has those days”. If your mistake ended up hurting someone, however, it’s only fair for you to apologise. This can be a painful thing to do, but I’m here to help make the process as smooth as possible.

I can recall one of the first times I had to apologise to someone. When I was around 10 years old, I accused a (nameless) friend of stealing my iPod Shuffle. Instead of confronting her about it, I decided to spread a fast and furious rumour that she was a thief. Not long after, I found said iPod Shuffle in my very own rucksack, and the whole fiasco was over.

Olivia (oops) didn’t even know I’d put the blame on her, but I decided to apply an unforgettable lesson my grandad taught me to the situation: always say sorry to someone in your head, even if they don’t know you’ve hurt them. Now, when I’m on the bus and find myself thinking about how ugly someone’s outfit is, I immediately apologise to them internally for being so rude.

That being said, if you need to say sorry for real and out loud, here are some approaches I find useful.

You could try the old fashioned way: take the person you’ve hurt out for dinner, say your piece and hope to god they forgive you. However, given the cost of living crunch, you may find yourself on a budget. It also depends how badly you’ve hurt the person in question. I’d say getting off with their boyfriend, girlfriend or partner warrants a Zizzi’s (with dessert) but forgetting to invite them to drinks after work could easily be sorted with a meal deal. (Maybe a Tesco’s Finest sandwich, if they’re being difficult).

If someone hurt me, I think I’d really appreciate a delicious, home-cooked apple pie with sorry’ lovingly carved out in puff pastry and stuck on top. If strapped for cash, a McDonald’s one would do the job nicely”

You could also try taking a leaf out of big corporations’ books and send your victim a formal letter of apology through the post. One of the greatest apologies I ever received was from John Frieda after I complained that the Go Blonder shampoo in fact made me more brunette, of all things.

Janet from customer relations popped a lovely personal message in the post – words that clearly came from the heart – and I’ve got it framed on my wall to this day. I’ll probably keep it there forever. Don’t know their home address? Try an E‑card! I love an E‑card, and there are some really good remorse gifs available these days.

I was deeply upset following a recent visit to my local beauty salon. The spray tan gun broke mid-appointment and stained me completely Wotsit coloured. I wore that shade of humiliation for a whole week. They profusely apologised and, ironically, sent me a gift voucher for a free tan. I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and promptly went back the following week.

Physical expressions of sorrow can also definitely get the point across. I recently watched an episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch where she conjures up a humble pie”. As per the trusty source we like to refer to as Wikipedia, to eat humble pie, in common usage, is to face humiliation and subsequently apologise for a serious mistake. Why not make that a little more literal? If someone hurt me, I think I’d really appreciate a delicious, home-cooked apple pie with sorry” lovingly carved out in puff pastry and stuck on top. If strapped for cash, a McDonald’s one would do the job nicely, too.

All things considered, remember this: at the end of the day, saying I’m sorry” is just a couple of words. You’re better off with a gesture, no matter how small or grand, to show genuine remorse and appreciation for the friend, colleague or family member you’ve upset. All that matters is that it comes from the heart – especially when a trusty soz” won’t do the trick.

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