Wrong! It’s Hard To Say I’m Sorry

Why is it difficult for some people to admit they are wrong, let alone apologise, even though they know they are wrong, or proven wrong?

In my attempt of trying to understand this particular person who has caused a major headache for the past two days, because I couldn’t put myself in her shoes, I went around in the virtual world trying to find some answers. And I guess I did.

We all have a hard time admitting that we’re wrong, it’s not entirely our fault. Social psychologist Elliot Aronson says our brains work hard to make us think we are doing the right thing, even in the face of sometimes overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

The engine that drives self-justification, the energy that produces the need to justify our actions and decisions — especially the wrong ones — is an unpleasant feeling that called “cognitive dissonance.” Cognitive dissonance is a state of tension that occurs whenever a person holds two cognitions (ideas, attitudes, beliefs, opinions) that are psychologically inconsistent, such as “Smoking is a dumb thing to do because it could kill me” and “I smoke two packs a day.”

Dissonance is disquieting because to hold two ideas that contradict each other is to flirt with absurdity and, as Albert Camus observed, we humans are creatures who spend our lives trying to convince ourselves that our existence is not absurd. At the heart of it, Festinger’s theory is about how people strive to make sense out of contradictory ideas and lead lives that are, at least in their own minds, consistent and meaningful.

Harold J. Duarte-Bernhardt says there are several reasons why people don’t want to admit why they are wrong.

Pure ego, pride, and selfishness.

Some would rather lose plausibility than to lose face. Never “appearing to be wrong or found to be wrong,” is the equivalent of “always being right.” Never being wrong gives them power and moral superiority, or at least the illusion of it!

Dodging the consequences of their conducts.

That’s why we lie. That’s why we are outright dishonest. We know our behavior and conduct would be subject to criticism, questioning, disapproval or, worst of all, civil and criminal liability. Cheating on your spouse, cheating on your taxes, cheating on a test, lying to your family and friends are all about the same: instant gratification without paying the price of being honest.


Why is it so hard to accept that being wrong is human? Because we have come to believe that others expect from us what we are not able to deliver. It’s called perfectionism. Our culture, ethical, religious and moral institutions make us believe that!

Well, here’s the truth: we are human. And we are imperfect. Even though we have been right 1001, we will be wrong at least once in our lives. It can be from an easy thing like fail predicting the time to travel to a meeting place that makes us late, to something important like forgetting to send the wedding invitation and leave it for 19 days without realising that it is an urgent task to do.

But the truth will set you free, at least according to Duarte-Bernhardt, as he says there are benefits of admitting you are wrong:

  • Spiritual and emotional freedom
  • Health benefit – your immune system and your body experience the freedom of honesty versus the stress of lying.
  • Credibility – while being wrong is human, being wrong and lying or being dishonest about it makes you unethical and questionable in all other areas in your life. The only ones that don’t understand this truism are the pathological liars. They live under the illusion that they can lie in one area and make the world believe that the are credible in all the other areas.
  • Character – is what you are in the inner core of our soul, the management of your imperfection and the world around. Character always comes at cost and the real test of character is admitting you are wrong when it’s likely to cost more than what you want to pay.
  • Helping others – people feel better about themselves and get better at admitting their own wrongs when they hear of someone else opening up, especially if you are a role model to others. People will remember that and honor it. They will disrespect you for life as long as they know you have “explained” things away. Being honest is one way to make the world a better place regardless of your own personal consequences.
  • People are more willing to help you out when you admit you have been wrong.

But then, even though the person admits that s/he is wrong, most of us always think that this person owes them an apology.

Really? If you got an apology, how would you feel differently?

Most people would say that they would feel “right” or validated because the other person has admitted they are “wrong.” Unfortunately, needing other people to be “wrong” to get what you want means you will rarely get what you want. I just found out that people who feel wrong are in no mood for giving anything! Whether you deserve an apology or not, you will rarely get one. Most people are just too certain that saying “I’m sorry” means they are bad.

In my case, I got a good suggestion to skip the part where I expected others to admit they are wrong and go straight for saying what I want. For instance, I could say that, “When I ask you to help me, please do it as soon as possible, or just say that you don’t have time and let others do it, rather than leaving the task unfinished for a long time”.

This makes me realise that we don’t need the rest of the world to give us an apology as much as we need them to give us what we want. After reading all of those I feel so much lighter. I get back to my main intention and my main task, and only focus on them.

So let’s party!




  1. It’s easy to say “you’re sorry.”

    feeling regret and remorse when you say, “you’re sorry” well that’s a whole different things.

  2. I lurve your suggestion! Should take a note of it and apply it later ^^

  3. Is it really hard to say sorry? whoaa… i was known as an “easy to say sorry” type of gal by my friends…

    Not that i’m saying it cuz’ i easily feeling guilty, but maybe because i’m a “Y generation” type of person…
    If you know what i mean… hehehe..


    ,.-*’oo’*-.,_Chronicles of Trisna_,.-*’oo’*-.,

  4. I like this conclusion : “This makes me realise that we don’t need the rest of the world to give us an apology as much as we need them to give us what we want”….”I get back to my main intention and my main task, and only focus on them”

    ….but sometimes it’s not easy to get back to our main intention and leaving the bugs of ego in our head.

  5. Lorraine says:

    If one doesn’t sincerely mean it it is not hard to say it. When one does mean it, it is indeed a hard thing to do.

  6. Saying sorry had saved my ass so many times, especially when I was still being an employee 😛

    I made a mistake that caused some loss and feud between the purchasing and RND department, which opened up a can of worm about how reckless the RND people really were. The people from purchasing even said that I was already influenced to work in the wrong way even though I was a new employee LOL

    In the end I said sorry to my RND manager, and she said it was okay (well, actually it was her own fault too for not checking my work thoroughly).

    And then there was this other time when I made a mistake with the design of a packaging and it went out to the printers already. Immediately I said sorry, and my manager (who was usually keen on telling people off whenever she had the chance to) didn’t end up getting all pissed off.

    I think if you say sorry first, it gives the power back to you because you’re being a just person for admitting your mistake, and since not many people do that, it has become such a rarity to be appreciated.

  7. Finally Woken says:

    @Akokow & Lorraine: you're right. But the whole entry is about when we know we're wrong, so should we feel regret and remorse altogether?

    @Ivy: not as easy as it seems, dear. It takes a big heart to leave our ego and pride off of the table.

    @Trisna: you mean because you're young, it's easier to apologise? Care to elaborate?

    @Fajrin: yes exactly. We have the whole idea of our importance in the universe and thought by saying sorry we are going to loose our existence. Difficult to do :)

    @Therry: exactly. We appreciate when people are willing to admit their mistakes, it makes them human. And we have to accept those, because we are human though. Simple concept, difficult to apply!

  8. Rob Baiton says:

    Are we saying sorry to make amends or are we saying sorry simply to ensure that things keep motoring along smoothly?

    I think it is easy to say sorry bit hard for us to mean it. Ego and pride are a factor in some, perhaps most, cases. Yet, it really is about whether you are truly sorry.

    Sorry is a little bit more than really good “make-up sex” between partners after an argument.

    For me, I think the majority of us, if not all, have said sorry for the sake of saying sorry and not because we were truly sorry for what we have said or done.

    Nice post as usual!

  9. It seems everyone is saying sorry except those that need to apologize, such as ‘anggota DPR’ who was caught red handed receiving bribes (greased money).

  10. Sofhal Jamil says:

    hi, I’m jamil. I just visited your site. i’m dropping some ec’s for you. Tks.

    PS: It’s not so hard to say “Sofhi (I’m sorry in arabic).

  11. I’ve never had a problem of saying I’m sorry except in cases where the other party is equally at fault and won’t apologize.


  12. woelank says:

    Just before Hiatus begins…
    I tag you…

  13. I’m young? hahaha…
    Careful there, i may look like i’m young but i can (ehem*) wakakakaka…

    ~ ooops, here comes Anita’s smack up the back of my head!

    * Trisna quickly ducks.
    hehehe (^o^)

    well, to be honest, some of my friends say that i’m a sportive type of person… i’m not scared to say that i was wrong (IF i was) and i try to ameliorate wrong things that i’ve done.

    But, based on my experience… and let me elaborate my story based on the point you quote at your post… Pure ego, pride, and selfishness.
    Ok, I struggled with pathological narcissism for most of my life. I was always comparing myself to others to make sure I was on top. And, yeah, it kept me from getting close to people. But not anymore.

    I think we should know this ~~ Emotions reflect intentions.
    Therefore, awareness of emotions leads to awareness of intentions.
    Every discrepancy between a conscious intention and the emotions that accompany it,
    points directly to a splintered aspect of the self that requires healing.

    Now, how would you know the feeling of guilt for not saying sorry if you don’t have self-awareness?

    Pride is defined as an exaggerated positive evaluation of oneself, often based on a devaluation of others. It results in a kind of attachment to oneself and aversion to others. THAT USUALLY TRANSFORM INTO a inferiority feelings, fears for attack create a shield, leading to isolation. BECOME DEFENSIVE…

    Imagine a person such as previous had to say “i’m sorry” GAWD! they won’t say it! it’s a humiliation for them…

    Trisna’s last blog post..What is it With Men and Black Lingerie

  14. oh ya… i forgot to explain what is Y generation… you see Anita… there are 3 types of generation, i’ve read it somewhere (but i forgot where)

    X-generation is ppl that don’t have self awareness, we have to whip em to make em work and understand. and in this case, it’s useless for you to wait them to say sorry to you, you may shout or scream to them and they still won’t say sorry to you.

    Y-generation is ppl that we don’t need to whip em to make them understand, they have high self-awareness, and in this case these ppl easily realize that (s)he has made mistakes, therefore, like me, it’s easy to say sorry.

    Z-generation is ppl in between X and Y… sometimes need to get whip sometimes not, they behave depends on their moods. And in this case, (s)he look into the situation whichever benefits the person/them.

    Have a great day!
    Trisna’s last blog post..Better Tips to Get Rid Off Insomnia

  15. Elton John said, “Sorry seems to be the hardest word” and it is true. And it is the ego.

    Hard to find someone who says sorry sincerely.

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