Chances are you’ve had to apologize sometime in your life — whether you felt you did something wrong or not. But why are apologies so important, and why are they so hard to get right? We’ll discuss apologies: private, public and the ones we’ve never made. We welcome your stories of apologies that were meaningful to you and offer you a chance to make that apology you always wish you had — on air.

Nick Smith, associate professor of philosophy at the University of New Hampshire, and author of "I Was Wrong: The Meanings of Apologies"
Fred Luskin, director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project; professor of clinical psychology at Sofia University; and author of "Forgive for Good"

  • Ginny Bahr

    The amends is an essential component of addiction recovery, step 8 and 9. Many recovering addicts realize that their apologies no longer have weight, and therefore in addition to step 9, being accountable to their “living amends” is what gives their apology merit.

  • Diane

    I have taught my children that an apology is not “I’m sorry”.

    An apology goes like this: I am sorry for _____. I know that it made you feel __________ and/or it made things difficult for you because___________. In the future I will______________ so this won’t happen again.

  • theresa

    I had a friend who apologized then took it back three days later having rationalized her way into the clear. Pride seems to be the most common reason as well as not feeling responsible for the effects of their actions

  • ccaufield

    Is accepting an apology the same as actually forgiving someone?

  • Jay

    What do you say to a close family member who won’t apologize, who feels manipulated and guilt tripped by your reaction of hurt, who says – I didn’t mean to hurt you???

  • Patrick

    I hear the word wounded-ness been used in the apology conversation and a term that I came across many years ago linked to many of the big atrocities (WW II, Middle East etc) was de-humanization. I think that term along with the concept of being wounded are thought and conscience provoking.

  • Nancy Harrington

    Is it ever a good idea to solicit an apology from someone who has hurt you but may not be aware of it?

    I think apologies are also an occasion to behave more thoughtfully in future.

  • James

    I had an incredibly traumatic experience in High School, I was ostracized, publicly humiliated, and frequently beaten. I could never forgive any of those people for what they’ve done, and the long term consequences to my emotional and physical well being, my life has fallen apart a few times directly stemming from issues that are a vestige of what happened to me in my youth.

  • Aaron

    Ideas about trust come up a lot in connection to apologies. Lately I’m trying to explore a kind of trust that isn’t about me trusting someone else to do, or not do, certain things that are consistent with my expectations. Rather I’m trying to trust that people have their own needs and reasons for doing things. Maybe it’s a cheating spouse. Or a colleague who can’t seem to meet deadlines.

    I’m not suggesting that I roll over and just accept it. Or say some squishy thing like, “Well everything happens for a reason.” My intent is to cultivate a kind of trust that isn’t about trusting people to create outcomes that I consider desirable. To not assume that I’m at the core of everyone else’s motivations.

  • LJ

    my spouse finds it almost impossible to say she is sorry. I grew up feeling comfortable saying I am sorry. I find it hard that she can;t apologize

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    On his npr radio show, Harry Shearer reads “apologies of the week” from politicians and corporations. It reveals how apologies are issued *defensively*, and they have become so routine, they actually follow a standard format of apologizing for any perceived slight and such will not be repeated. So apologies can be manipulative or done essentially for personal gain. I apologize for bringing up a cynical angle to the apology process, but this reminds us to look at context carefully, lest we be duped.

    The City

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    What should a sincere apology contain?

  • rebecca bedrossian

    My daughter and I took a workshop through the Girls Leadership Institute and learned about the Double Sorry. I’m sorry that I [be specific]. The second person replies with a, Thank you, I’m sorry that I [be specific]. It usually takes two to tango. And the exercise was being specific in the apology, rather than a generic “I’m sorry.”

  • Jo

    I want to forgive my lawyer who charged me $25K for mistakes that cost me $100K in my divorce case, but he is so defensive out of fear of being sued for malpractice, that he won’t even agree that mistakes were made, although my ex husband’s lawyer is ready to admit to these factual mistakes. I want to move on and forgive him but feel really bad in my body and feel like I am not standing up for myself in giving him forgiveness when he won’t even acknowledge the mistake. I can’t bring myself to forgive because I am learning to stand up for myself. Moral issues related to self image.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    I am glad Dave iverson said, “do we apologize too much or too often?” That made me chuckle about my own example: I’m at work carrying a few paper file folders across the room and one folder falls to the floor. A passing woman says, “I’m sorry” to me. Why, did she knock the folder – no. Was anyone hurt or did I feel sad – no. Why apologize for such trivial matters one has no part in?

    • Pete

      Why ask such a trivial question?
      This was a deep and enlightening program…too many people are incapable of being genuinely apologetic…but I did know a woman who apologized when she drove over a speed bump. They’re out there.

      • Fay Nissenbaum

        Yours is the typical bay area response of people who’d rather not think, in favor of a simple to digest message. The talmudic approach is too question everything and thoroughly examine all sides of a question. It makes for an imformed public, not a placated one.

  • doof

    Great show and really hit home with my situation.

  • Laurie Monserrat

    Will the audio of this program be available later?

    • Amanda Stupi

      Yes. All of our programs are archived. We usually have them up by about 12:30 the same day, but sometimes it takes a bit longer. When it is up, the player will appear at the top of this page, where the “Audio currently not available for this program” is now.

      • Laurie Monserrat

        Thank you!

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