Just like trying to help sometimes make things worse, such is the case with apologising. Truth is, some of us just suck at it. If you’ve ever forgotten your anniversary or your chick’s birthday, you know that sorry just ain’t gonna cut it (unless she’s very gullible). For those of you that at least try, but just can’t seem to get it right, here are some tips on how to apologise better. For starters, think back to the last heartfelt words you delivered: were they an apology or an accusation? “ Phrases like ‘I’m sorry if’ or ‘I’m sorry but’ project blame rather than convey remorse,” says Dr Eli Karam, a professor of family therapy at the University of Louisville. Here’s the right way to say “my bad”: acknowledge your role in what happened, express your regret and finally voice your commitment to avoiding a repeat, says Karam. Depending on who you hurt, you might also customise your mea culpa with these tweaks.

Your partner
Women in relationships think about the long haul – they want assurance that you won’t screw up repeatedly, Karam says. So the last step of an apology is critical: offer a specific strategy you’ll use to avoid future flubs, like, say, entering your anniversary into your smartphone calendar.

Your buddy
Man-to-man apologies involve more doing than saying. Acknowledge your fault face-to-face while doing something together that you both enjoy, such as watching a game, suggests Karam. By framing the apology in the context of an activity, you show him that your friendship is returning to normal.

Your boss
Emphasise you’re competent and accountable, says Dr Kurt T. Dirks, a professor of organisational behaviour at Washington University in St. Louis Olin Business School. If you missed a deadline, for example, explain that you made a time-management error (one that you’ve identified and will correct) and it wasn’t due to laziness.