Find it hard to say “Sorry”? That’s hardly surprising. After all, making an apology entails us owning up to things we’re probably not proud of.

“When we have to apologise, we feel ashamed. And when we’re ashamed, we prefer to hide. Saying ‘I’m sorry’ requires the opposite action as we’ve to initiate a conversation with someone we’ve hurt, and we know that the conversation will be difficult,” says Ralitsa Peeva, a counsellor and life coach.

“Plus, even if we apologise, it doesn’t mean that the person we’ve hurt will forgive us. So we often choose not to talk at all in the false hope that the matter will pass.”

She points out that in some instances, we may even be prepared to leave a relationship than to admit to our mistake and apologise for it.

But apologising is important—it makes us exercise humility and take responsibility for our actions. So how can we hone that skill?

How to apologise right

“The first is to hear what the hurt party has to say. How did our words or actions affect them? How did they feel? It’s a an uncomfortable space to be in but it allows the other person to feel heard, seen, understood,” says Ralitsa.

“The second thing is to resist the urge to explain your actions. Avoid saying, ‘I’m sorry, but…’ even when you have your reasons as to why you acted in a certain way. The justification you’re giving undermines the apology that you just made.”

She adds that when you justify your actions, you’re not allowing the feelings of the other party to be validated, and that if you absolutely must explain yourself, you should wait until a follow-up conversation to do so.

Going the extra mile

Want to do more than just make a verbal apology? There are plenty of things you can do to show remorse, but if you want to do something easy yet sincere, Ralitsa recommends writing a note or an email.

“Tell them what they mean to you, how important the relationship is to you, and what you wish you could take back,” she says.

“When we write, we give the other person a chance to hear us again and again in the peace and calm of their own time and space.”

Apologising is hard. But at the end of the day, it might be better to bite the bullet than to lose someone you actually don’t want to lose. Besides, if we’re truly at fault, we ought to step up and try to repair the relationship. No?