“Never Ruin an Apology with an Excuse”

Conflict Management Coaching Blog by Cinnie Noble

This quote by Kimberly Johnson is a good one to consider when it comes to asking forgiveness, giving an apology, and otherwise trying to make amends. Previous blogs have discussed these topics and invited readers to examine apologies given and received from various vantage points. What I like about this quote is that, in many of my experiences, when I or the other person in our disputes has provided a reason for was said or did it lands poorly.

When reflecting on Johnson’s quote, there is definitely something about justifying ourselves – by making excuses for something said or done – that  detracts from apologizing. For me, it’s like giving with one hand and taking away with the other – a phrase my mother used to say about the same sort of thing. To a great extent, it seems to me that having to make an excuse when apologizing is not really being sorry for what was said or done. It also seems  that as long as the person delivering the message thinks they are right (even while they may be sorry they offended someone) the excuse given is more about them and their needs than tuning into the impact they have had on the other.

Thinking about this phrase – “never ruin an apology with an excuse” – if this rings true to you in some way – I invite you to consider a situation in which you are wanting to apologize to someone for something you said or did and for which you are sorry.

  • What happened in the situation you have in mind?
  • For what specifically do you want to apologize, i.e. something you said or did or didn’t say or do?
  • For what reasons did you say or do that?
  • If you are tempted to provide an excuse what precisely would it be?
  • What is your rationale for providing an excuse?
  • If the excuse you would give for what you said or did is not actually consistent with your rationale, what is that about for you?
  • If you don’t make an excuse to explain yourself, what would that mean for you? What do you think the other person would not know about you that you want them to?
  • What impact might it have on the other person, if you provided an excuse along with the apology?
  • What do you think the other person wants to hear from you by way of an apology? How is your answer to the above question the same as that for which you want to apologize? How is it different?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

Cinnie Noble

Cinnie Noble is a certified coach (PCC) and mediator and a former lawyer specializing in conflict management coaching. She is the author of two coaching books: Conflict Management Coaching: The CINERGY™ Model and Conflict Mastery: Questions to Guide You. MORE >

Featured Mediators

View all

Read these next


Congregational Conflict: Things To Do If The Phone Call Comes

My Story When I first started teaching congregations and their ministry teams how to manage conflict according to the scriptures a little over nine years ago, I realized that strife,...

By Lester L. Adams

International Commercial Arbitration & Anti-Suit Injunctions: When a Party Eschews Arbitration in the United States and Runs to a Foreign Court

I. INTRODUCTION: GETTING AROUND YES Commercial arbitration has grown extensively over the past few decades, making it one of the more popular methods of dispute resolution in the international realm....

By Kenneth B. Gorton

Wilcox v. Apraio – the 9th Circuit Sidesteps Mediation Confidentiality Questions

ADR Prof Blog by Andrea Schneider, Michael Moffitt, Sarah Cole,Art Hinshaw, Jill Gross and Cynthia Alkon.On Monday, the 9th Circuit handed down its decision in the Wilcox v. Apraio case,...

By Art Hinshaw

Find a Mediator