We all speak or act without thinking from time to time.

How to Apologize for Your Impulsiveness

by Shellie Braeuner

Impulsive behaviors are those things we do without thinking. For example, you don’t have to stop and think about getting out of the way of a speeding vehicle. You just do it. That’s an impulse. However, acting on impulse all the time will get anyone into trouble. Speaking without thinking or acting out of anger is bound to cause trouble in relationships. Apologizing is the first step toward repairing any relationship damaged by impulsive behavior.

Apologize immediately. Your action was impulsive and happened quickly. Your apology should be just as quick. Don’t wait to see how the other person reacts; act first to show you recognize that there is a problem.

Show sincere regret. Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes for a moment to understand how he might have felt after your impulsive behavior. Share your empathy with the other person. For example, you might say: “I am so sorry I said that. I can see I really hurt your feelings, and I should have been more thoughtful.”

Take responsibility. There are many reasons why people may speak or act impulsively, everything from a poor night’s sleep to ADD or ADHD. However, none of that really matters when you hurt someone. Don’t offer excuses when you apologize. You might say something like: “You have every right to be angry with me.”

Make reparations. Try to fix the situation as much as you can. For example, if you impulsively ran into a store because you saw the perfect shoes, that action may have made your group miss the bus or subway. While you may not be able to change the subway schedule, you can offer to take your friends out for a snack or a drink while you all wait. Or, if you were quick to mete out an excessive punishment for a misbehaving child, you can apologize and show your child that adults make mistakes, too. In this case, you could discuss what a more reasonable consequence might be and then change the consequence to match your discussion.


  • To prevent impulsive behaviors from occurring in the future, look at yourself and your behavior. Try to figure out when you are most impulsive. For example, you may be more impulsive when you are tired, angry or after a drink or two. Once you recognize when you are most impulsive, remind yourself to stop and think before you act or speak when you know you are more likely to slip up. Before you open your mouth to tell your husband what you think of his guitar playing at 2:00 in the morning, stop and think. Instead of impulsively reacting, you can wait until morning and have a reasonable discussion.

About the Author

Based in Nashville, Shellie Braeuner has been writing articles since 1986 on topics including child rearing, entertainment, politics and home improvement. Her work has appeared in "The Tennessean" and "Borderlines" as well as a book from Simon & Schuster. Braeuner holds a Master of Education in developmental counseling from Vanderbilt University.

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