How do you apologize when someone won’t talk to you?
Maybe you’ve tried already, but they’re just not having it.
Saying sorry to a friend when they’ve shut you out is agony, not because of the apology but because of the pain you’ve caused—and because nothing you say seems to matter.
It may matter more than you realize.
But it may not be enough.
You’ll soon see why—and what you can do about it.
What Do You Do When You Apologize and Get No Response?
What’s left for you to do when someone refuses to talk to you, even when you’re trying to apologize. You know you messed up, and your remorse is genuine.
But they just don’t want to hear anything from you. Maybe they’ve even decided you’re toxic, and they want a clean break.
Toxic people generally don’t offer genuine apologies, though, much less try to repair the relationships they’ve damaged. And if you’re trying to do just that, we have some ideas.
How to Apologize to Someone Who Doesn’t Want to Talk to You
The following seven steps show how to apologize to someone who refuses to talk to you.
Read through them carefully and make a note of the points you want to remember.
1. Get in the right headspace.
Before you try to apologize or make amends with your friend, give yourself the time and space you need to get into the right mindset.
Acknowledge what you did wrong, but don’t torture yourself over it. Try writing down what you’re thinking, how you want to apologize, and what you’re willing to do to repair the relationship.
Put yourself in your friend’s place and think about how you might respond. Try to understand how they feel before you plan your apology. Genuine empathy (or a genuine attempt at it) will make your words more believable.
Along with that, seeing your hurtful words or actions from your friend’s perspective can help you approach them with the right attitude.
2. Give them space (and time).
Your friend needs time and space away from you and all the pain you remind them of before they become even slightly receptive to your apology.
Don’t avoid them, but don’t shadow or stalk them, either. Leave them alone (as they’ve probably asked you to do) and respect their boundaries. If they bolt at the sight of you or put their headphones on to block you out, take that as a sign they’re not ready to listen.
Wait until they are. There’s no rushing this process for either of you. And your friend is more likely to be receptive to your apology if you give them some time and space away from you first.
3. Offer One Genuine Apology.
Don’t overdo it. The more you say you’re sorry, the more desperate and exasperated you sound, which doesn’t help. Apologize once with all the sincerity you can muster. Then leave the ball in your friend’s court.
Don’t keep pestering them with one apology after another, begging them to forgive you so you can go back to being friends and pretend this whole mess never happened.
Your friend may want to forgive you and forget what happened, but at least part of them also wants to protect themselves from being hurt again.
Their walls are up, and coming at them with a battering ram will just give them a reason to reinforce the barrier. Respect them enough not to bombard them with words or pressure them to just “get over it.”
If they take your words to heart, and they want to be friends again, they’ll let you know in their own time. Be patient.
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4. Show Them You’re (Genuinely) Sorry.
Words are easy—and probably not enough to convince your friend you’re genuinely sorry and won’t hurt them the same way ever again. If you blabbed about something they told you in confidence, think of actions you can take to make amends for that betrayal.
You could blab an embarrassing secret of your own (without expecting that to fix everything). Give anyone who’s heard your friend’s secret something else to talk about.
Whatever you’ve said or done to hurt or offend someone you care about, brainstorm a list of ways to show them you’re sorry.
And after doing something, don’t expect a quick fix. It’s enough that your friend sees what you’ve done to make amends—and what it’s cost you.
Don’t push them to tell you what they think of it. Leave them to process your words and actions, and in the meantime, keep doing your best to become the friend you want to be.
This isn’t a one-and-done deal. Your apology and gesture will seem inauthentic if your friend sees you give up and revert to negative behavior.
5. Wait a Few Days.
After you apologize and do something to show how sorry you are, wait a few days before you reach out to your friend. Give them time to process your words and actions before asking them if they’re willing to forgive you.
Whatever you do, don’t insist they “move on” before they feel ready to do so. Don’t invalidate what they’re feeling or complain about their need for more time away from you. They don’t owe you a quick turnaround.
Do this for your own sake, too. You need time to process your apology and any grand gesture you’ve made with a big picture view. And that’s hard to do right after embarrassing yourself.
6. Reach Out to Them.
After a few days, you can try a few gentle overtures like sending them a text or leaving them a handwritten note.
Let them know you haven’t given up on your relationship, that they have every right to be angry with you, and that you’ll be there when they want to talk.
Then make sure you will be ready. Check your own headspace for resentment (over how long they’re taking to forgive you) or spiraling self-condemnation.
You can’t be there for anyone until you learn to accept yourself as you are, forgive yourself for your mistakes, and commit to doing your best, however challenging that can be.
In the meantime, don’t stalk your friend on social media (they might just block you, if they haven’t already). And don’t show up at their house without invitation, demanding to talk. More than likely, you’ll only convince them they were right to push you away.
7. Let it Go.
It’s possible your friend will decide they’re better off keeping you at arm’s length. They may be unwilling to risk being hurt by you again. It doesn’t mean they’ll never want to be friends again, but they may need a lot more time and space to recover and move on.
The only thing you can do, if you respect your friend’s autonomy and their feelings, is to let go of your need for their forgiveness—or your need to be welcomed back with open arms.
Moving on from a painful experience is different for everyone. And just as they may be suffering, recognize the toll this is taking on you. And give yourself time to grieve.
If they ever do want your friendship again (and they may not), you want to be in a better place when that day comes. Use this time to work on yourself and become the person you want to be, even if your friend no longer wants to be part of your life.
You’re still worth the effort.
Now that you know how to apologize to someone who won’t talk to you, what stood out for you? And what will you do differently?