There are right ways and wrong ways of saying sorry. Some people will say, "Well, you just have to feel sorry to say sorry correctly." Actually, that is not true. You just have to know how people work and make them think that you are "genuinely sorry" when you are not. Now, you may think to yourself, "How can you not feel sorry if you are guilty?" The truth is, not everyone shares the same level of empathy, and when people don't share the same level of empathy, trouble ensues, because the wronged person will feel that the perpetrator has behaved badly and does not feel any remorse for the action. In case you happen to be that accused/assumed perpetrator in the unfortunate event, this Take is for you.
Please note that there are some cases where you should NOT say sorry. If you are in a car accident and you are unsure whose fault it is, then you do not want to say sorry so early or impulsively, because doing so is an admission of fault on your part. If the car accident is not your fault in the first place, then you may have to pay for something that you didn't do. Anything you say can be used for or against you in the courtroom.
Aside from legal cases, this Take will be more focused on relationship issues.
1. Say "I'm sorry" explicitly
Sometimes, someone may say that you have wronged them in some way, and they want you to say sorry. But the truth is, you really don't know what you are saying sorry for or remember what you did wrong, and they don't seem to be willing in telling you. If you do ask, then they may think you are lying. In this case, it can be very frustrating trying to figure out what has made the person so upset. Assuming that you really have no idea what is going on and the other person has really bad communication skills, you just have to remain silent. Silence is golden.
If that person wants you to speak, then you may speak. Just say, "I'm sorry" loud and clear. In a legal courtroom, saying sorry for something you didn't do or something you aren't really sure you did do is called a plea bargain. It is an admission that you are "guilty". By admitting that you are guilty of the offense, you don't have to go through all the legal stuff. Similarly, in relationship cases, saying that you are sorry may mean you won't have a person who is holding an angry grudge against you for withholding an apology. However, the negative consequence of saying the apology is that you may be punished for something you didn't do or for something that could have been resolved if the other person had reacted differently.
Breathing a sigh is a gesture of relaxation. If someone senses that you are sighing to yourself, then they may perceive that you are relaxing and thus more honest, because a common physical reaction of dishonesty is physical nervousness or agitation. By removing the physical sign of nervousness, you create the impression that you are telling the truth. The other person will be more willing to believe you and accept your apology.
3. Do not compare to yourself
This is a bad practice in apologies. If you compare that person to yourself, then you are setting up yourself for apology rejection. The other person is not you. You may tolerate a certain behavior, but that person may not. If you suggest that the other person should be more like you, then you are essentially saying that you have done nothing wrong, and that other person is in the wrong for reacting. As you can see, the Golden Rule does not apply in all cases.
4. Do not say that the other person is overly sensitive
Like Number 3, you should not say that the other person is overly sensitive. Doing so essentially means that you have done nothing wrong, and that other person is in the wrong for being too sensitive about the situation. Different people have different sensibilities and sensitivities. Different people have different constructs of how the world works. The challenging aspect is trying to understand the various sensibilities, sensitivities, and worldviews of different people. The more you know, the better you can socialize with extremely sensitive people. People are funny. Some people really are extremely sensitive, but they don't want others to say that they are sensitive, because saying so suggests that they are the problem.
5. Do not put blame on the other person
Putting blame on the other person makes that other person feel morally inferior. Everybody has a conscience. That conscience guides people to make right decisions. When people do something wrong, their conscience is violated, and they feel guilty. Putting blame on the other person makes that other person feel morally inferior, because the fault is now on that person. When a person feels guilty, the person wants to redeem himself/herself, which may involve putting you down. Then, the vicious relationship begins.
Instead of putting blame on other people, you may have to put blame on yourself, regardless of whether you knowingly did something wrong.
6. Speak in deadpan
Laughter is an inappropriate emotion, because that implies that you are not taking the situation seriously. To sound like you are taking the situation seriously, you have to speak in a deadpan tone in a calm manner.