The key to any lasting relationship is forgiveness–but it’s kind of hard to forgive someone who didn’t even apologize for their actions.

You’re right, nobody is perfect. I get that. However, that is not a good enough reason to neglect knowing how to apologize to someone when you’ve done something wrong. It doesn’t mean you cheated, it could simply be a time you didn’t show them support when they needed it most.

When I came up with this topic, I sat and thought of real-life examples from my own experience. Whether I needed to apologize or I needed the apology from someone, I found that the death of most of my past relationships was caused by failure to apologize. Most times, when you apologize to someone and mean it, the two of you are able to push forward and continue pursuing a healthy relationship. As I always remind you, do not limit the term ‘relationship’ to just one type of relationship–these things go for platonic relationships, social relationships, and family relationships as well. I’m not saying that all mistakes can be made okay simply by apologizing, but there’s no harm in trying. So, if you’ve ever needed to know how to apologize when you’ve really messed up, here are 5 steps to doing just that. Let’s get into it!

  1. Seek advice from a trusted source. I believe in getting a trusted second opinion in just about everything, so in my case, if I’m feeling guilty or feel like I’ve done something wrong to someone, I tell a trusted source about it. I do this for a number of different reasons, but ultimately it’s so that I have an opportunity to openly express myself without fear of being judged. When we do things we end up having to apologize for, the motive is not always simply to hurt someone. Sometimes we do it from anger, sorrow, and a heap of other emotions. When you confide in someone you trust, you have a chance to really let out all of your emotions behind why you made the choice you did. Outside of that, the other most important reason I seek the advice of someone else is that I don’t have all the answers. The way that I might think it’s appropriate to apologize could be completely wrong. Or I could do one of the worst things possible, not seek a second opinion and end up convincing myself that I don’t need to apologize at all.
  2. Accept and admit your fault. FIRST, YOU SHOULD ALWAYS APOLOGIZE IN PERSON if you are physically capable of doing so. Hopefully, you see the importance of confiding in someone you trust about what has happened. Hopefully, they supported you and encouraged you to apologize to the person you hurt. The first thing to do after getting trusted advice is to accept the hurt you’ve caused the other person involved and to immediately apologize to them. No, none of us like admitting that we are wrong, but this is a very important step in the other person being able to forgive you. Admitting what you did wrong will show the other person involved that you are aware of exactly the actions that caused them the hurt they are feeling. Although it sucks for you, they deserve to know that you understand the measures of your actions.
  3. Verbally and visibly show empathy and remorse. Some people say that saying, “I’m sorry,” doesn’t mean anything, but that isn’t necessarily true. Just saying, “I’m sorry,” isn’t all that matters when apologizing, but still, it’s a piece of the puzzle. This step is more of the ‘pay the price’ vs. ‘feel good’ step of apologizing. You’ve got to pay a price for your actions and they deserve to feel good about what you’re doing. This step is supposed to support both of you in feeling confident that the apology is indeed a sincere one. Verbally showing empathy and remorse means to tell that person that you understand how bad your actions hurt them (and it wouldn’t be a horrible idea to share the reasons why you care about them so much in the first place). Visibly showing empathy and remorse leaves you room for creativity, but is highly encouraged to let that person know you mean what you’re saying. Some people like to receive gifts life flowers, while others would really appreciate a poem or written letter of affection. Hone in on what the person you’re apologizing to would consider a thoughtful gesture and offer that to them as a token of your remorse as well.
  4. Present a solution they can trust. Long ago I was told never to present a problem without a solution, you may have heard that before. I don’t think that this is only applicable to school work or business. I live by it. Come up with a plan that will allow the person you’re apologizing to, to confidently take your word when you promise them you won’t do this again. It doesn’t have to be elaborately drawn out, but it should be true and trustworthy. Yes, that means deleting lines of temptation (I.E., telephone numbers, followers, and the means for any other temptation you may have) and eliminating other sources that caused the problem in the first place. You’ve got to show them that you mean it when you say it won’t happen again. If this step is hard for you, think of how you would feel if whatever it is you did, happened to you… let that (probably sh*tty) feeling motivate you to follow through with this step.
  5. Don’t fuck up again (at least not in the exact same way). Plain and simple. Don’t go through all of this only to repeat the “same mistake” again. You absolutely deserve what’s coming to you if you do. That’s just my personal opinion. If you find that you’re still falling short of your promises and leaning toward whatever tempted you to get in the position you were in initially, remove yourself from the relationship so that you’re not hurting that person again. It sucks to have the same wound opened twice. Trust me.

This article was originally written by Editor-in-chief of Prime Fifty-Two, Isis Nezbeth, and can also be seen Thought Catalog.