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The art of saying sorry

All, De-stress, Our Experts, Relationships, Self-Care


Have you ever heard the saying:

“Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?”

Well if you hadn’t before, you have now.

This is a tricky one for me personally because if I’m honest, quite often, I think I actually prefer being right – especially when I really feel that I am! But of course I often do make mistakes and, gradually, I’m learning how to own them. For those who possess a stubborn streak like myself, I’ve compiled below a few ideas to help you hone the art of making a good and honest apology. This is for those times when – in your heart of hearts – you know that you’ve messed up, but you’re still struggling to ‘fess up’.


Judging by how hard some of us work to justify and wriggle out of accepting fault or owning responsibility, you may well think we’re trying to escape some kind of devastating consequence.

In the past I, myself, have clutched at the feeblest of straws in order to uphold my position in an argument. I know only too well how it feels to grasp at anything – anything at all – to reinforce my point. You can feel how ridiculous you’re being but you just can’t. quite. seem. to. admit. defeat.

One of the most powerful questions anyone has ever posed to me on this topic was, “What’s the worst thing that would happen if you just admitted you were wrong?” If you’re anything like me, this question may well lead you to wonder why the heck you’re always so hellbent on digging your stubborn heels in. Because really, what is the worst thing that would happen?


There’s a line from the metaphysical text, A Course In Miracles, which states, ’In my defencelessness my safety lies’. I think there’s an awful lot that we can take from this statement.

Firstly. If there is something to apologise for (because – let’s face it – whatever atrocious thing the other person may have done to us, our own behaviour probably isn’t entirely without fault…), laying down our own defensiveness is usually a game-changer.


Because 97% of the time*, saying sorry diffuses the drama completely.

(*I totally made up that stat, but you get my point. If you don’t; try it.)

When you make a sincere apology and acknowledge where you may have fallen short, it leaves very little for the other person to push back or rail against. ‘Sorry’ can shift an air of antagonism to an aura of peace in an instant.

Secondly. If you’ve ever been in a situation where you felt completely convicted that you hadn’t put a foot wrong (at all, in the slightest), you’ve probably experienced a sense of assurance and stability. Now, that doesn’t mean that you weren’t angry / disappointed / hurt by what had happened, but the odds are… you probably didn’t feel defensive. We tend to experience a sense of defensiveness when there is a need to defend something. If we are entirely blame-free then there’s nothing at all to defend against, is there?

Very often, I find my level of defensiveness a helpful indicator as to where I may or may be missing the mark. The more defensive I am, the more I’m likely to have screwed up – hence the desperate need to justify and protect my corner. When my defence-o-metre is low, however, it tends to be on occasions where I’ve managed to behave with integrity and grace.


The problem with most conflict is that one person’s truth or understanding of what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ is different to another’s. This is where I find the principles of 12-step programs come in very handy. For anyone who isn’t familiar with the ’12 steps’, it’s essentially a design for living that provides you with guidelines that – when followed properly – can get you out of the most difficult and depressing of situations. It’s pretty amazing. Steps 8, 9 and 10 are all about making amends (aka, apologising).

Step 8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

 Step 9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

 Step 10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

If I’m honest, I struggled with these steps quite a bit because I kept finding myself piping up with, “Yeah but – ”, followed by listing the other person’s wrongdoings. It very often wasn’t just me who had something to apologise for within a dynamic. There were an awful lot of “yeah buts”.

Yet, what I learnt is that I could at least acknowledge my part in a conflict. It didn’t mean I was condoning or excusing the other person’s behaviour. I could simply apologise for my own actions and choose to draw a line, knowing that I’d done my bit to rectify things. How the other person responds to an apology is up to them. In my own experience, some apologies were graciously accepted and echoed back, others were simply accepted, some were ignored and a few got rejected.

But, in the end, maybe it does come down to the question posed above: “Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?

I do love being right but, as much as it pains me to admit it, the peace that happiness brings in the long-term is perhaps the more valuable of the two. What about you?


Joanne Bradford is a certified healing practitioner and life-consultant, and is also co-author of ‘The Inner Fix’, published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2016. Joanne is founder of Motherheart, dedicated to creating the space for you to clear out emotional blockages and discordant energies, so you can plug into your inner guidance and live a meaningful life that makes a difference to your world. 

Joanne is Life + Me’s Emotional Healing Expert. If you have a question for Joanne for our Q+As, or if you have a suggested topic you would like her to cover, email [email protected]

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