Mistakes are a part of life, as is apologizing for them. Apologizing can be difficult and uncomfortable, but gaining the forgiveness of a loved one is worth the momentary discomfort. While it may not come easy to most of us, forgiveness and apologizing are skills that can be learned!

After surveying 500 people about how long it takes them to apologize, and another 500 about when they find apologies most effective, we came up with a six-step formula that is sure to help you make amends.

How to Say Sorry in 6 Steps

Step 1: Apologize in a timely fashion – The longer you wait to apologize, the bigger the situation gets. Those surveyed said that apologies are most effective if they are given soon after the incident happens.

Step 2: Recount the situation – Delving into the details ensures you and the person you are apologizing to are on the same page, and shows that you empathize and understand why they’re upset.

Step 3: Acknowledge the hurt you caused – Acknowledging what you have done to cause them pain validates their feelings. Avoid getting defensive! This is an important step towards rebuilding your relationship.

Step 4: Assume responsibility for the damage – This part is key. Say “I am sorry” and take responsibility for your actions. Be sure to explain what you did wrong and why you won’t do it again. Expressing regret will go a long way to make your apology authentic and meaningful.

Step 5: Ask for forgiveness – Once you have shown remorse, you hand the reigns over and ask for forgiveness. This is where offering some form of reparation can come in handy.

Step 6: Promise it won’t happen again – Learn from your mistake and avoid making it in the future to show that you understand your wrong-doing.

The Most Effective Apologies

Timely apologies are most effective

It’s no surprise that the majority of those surveyed thought that the most effective time for an apology was within a day of the incident. The sooner hard feelings are resolved, the better.

Older groups value timely apologies most

Older groups placed the most value on prompt apologies. Over 80% of respondents ages 35 and older felt that apologies within a day were essential. In comparison, younger groups were more willing to wait a few days to receive an apology.

Older groups are quick to apologize

The older groups not only valued timely apologies more, they were also more willing to give apologies quickly — with age comes maturity and wisdom.

Urban dwellers take longer to apologize

Suburban areas are the best at saying sorry quickly. Nearly 78% of suburban residents said that they apologize within a day, while only 64% of people living in cities apologize in a day or less.

Taking Your Apology to the Next Level

Now that you know how to apologize, there are a few different ways to put your apology into action. You can write an apology to ensure that you keep calm and accurately convey your sincerity or you can say you’re sorry in person. If you want a cute accompaniment to your apology try one of the ideas below. We only recommend these light-hearted options if your offense wasn’t too severe.

  • Spell “Sorry!” on a pizza with pepperoni.
  • Write a silly poem.
  • Bake a cake.
  • Draw something silly like a stick figure apologizing.
  • Leave little notes around for them to find with reasons you are sorry.
  • Attach a note saying “Sorry for driving you nuts!” to a pack of their favorite nuts.
  • Switch their desktop background to a cute apology photo.
  • If all else fails send them chocolate.

A sweet gift is the icing on the cake of a perfect apology. Attach your note, poem or sweet treat to a beautiful bouquet of flowers to make your peace offering pop. Bright, happy flowers like sunflowers or gerber daisies will help lighten the mood and bring a smile to their face.