We’re all human with our unique flaws, and sometimes those flaws come out in ways that can hurt others, even the people we care about most. When you do or say something that harmful in your relationship, one of the essential steps in getting back in good standing is to apologize. While that might seem like the obvious answer, the way you apologize is much less so.

We’ve all received an apology that, while it contained the right vocabulary, felt nothing like an apology. This shows that there is a right and wrong way to apologize. In a relationship, one of the most critical aspects that will help it thrive is an understanding of how to apologize properly, so let’s break it down.

A sincere apology must acknowledge how the other person feels and validate those feelings. Neither of these things requires you to agree with your partner but showing you recognize and understand why they’re upset will often solve much of the emotional discord. It’s vital that your partner feels understood, so making sure your apology does this will help protect your relationship.

If you’ve done something that you shouldn’t have and therefore you’re crafting your apology, you must include a genuine expression of your intention not to commit the same error. What will make your partner feel better is an apology that shows there won’t be a need for another apology for the same issue anytime soon.

Another vital part of offering a sincere apology to your partner is ensuring that your apology reaches them in the best medium for them to process it. If you know you’re apologizing on a contentious issue and haven’t been able to speak about it without devolving into arguments, it might be more effective to write your apology down and give it to your partner to read. A written apology can also be more considerate by giving your partner the time and space they need to process what you’ve said. Alternatively, if you might’ve normally apologized on the phone, consider meeting your partner in-person to apologize. Making an effort to see them in person to apologize can often be a good way to show you care and take their feelings about the issue seriously.

Offering your partner a sincere apology when it’s needed is an important aspect of every relationship. Keep these points for how to apologize in mind the next time you’ve messed up, and your relationship will come out stronger for it.