Saying “It’s Okay” Is Not Okay


Michelle Ho, Staff Writer

For couples, arguments now and then are normal and are considered healthy. Usually, after one person apologizes to the other, the latter may respond with “it’s okay”. However, choosing to say this phrase is not the best way to accept an apology; it can lead to bad communication between the two parties, resulting in similar mistakes being repeated, or an even worse argument ensuing.

If the phrase seems meaningless and harmless to you, that’s because it is. The term “it’s okay” implies that the actions of the one who apologizes are not wrong even when they are. Also, the phrase is vague and disregards the offensive action, suggesting that there is nothing to be sorry about. When you reply to an apology, choosing to communicate clearly and openly with the other person will go a long way. By the time you have accepted the apology, you should be reassured that the reason for the argument does not occur again; empty words and promises will only lead to more trouble.

“I took a family communications class in college that taught me how to express myself to my significant other through XYZ statements,” said Kelsey Smith in How Do You Accept an Apology Without Saying “It’s Okay”? “Tell them what the action was, when the action took place, and how the action made you feel.” Obviously, the phrase “it’s okay” does not explain any of the former to the person apologizing, instead jumping straight to accepting the apology without any further discussion.

Freshman Sonoma Lu explained how she would advise someone to accept an apology.

“You should say “I’m very thankful or grateful that you apologized for what you did. Of course, I don’t forgive you yet, but [I would be glad if] we could talk it out. Accept and then forgive, not the other way around,” said Lu. The most important part of an apology is accepting and talking about what caused the argument. After both have been made clear, forgiveness may be given. The opposite happens when replying with “it’s okay”; the receiver of the apology forgives the action before both people can talk about the apology and accept it.

If you don’t want to forgive the person just yet, saying “it’s okay” will make the situation even worse because the phrase means that you have forgiven the person and no longer have any negative feelings about the situation.

“Some people still think in black and white, the way I did when I was a kid,” said Smith. “They think that to accept an apology is to accept the action, that there’s no middle ground.” In reality, there are a variety of different ways you can choose to accept or not accept an apology. But in every situation, communication is key.

It may seem reasonable to assume that once an apology is made, the argument has been resolved. However, this is not always the case. If the apology is followed by “it’s okay”, then the conversation is not over as that is simply not enough to respond to an apology. This response can result in miscommunication between the two parties, which is the opposite of what you want after an apology. In a conversation after an apology, talking about the gravity of the situation is incredibly important because it allows the person at fault to see what they did wrong and correct their mistake. Both people must be on the same page afterward, and using two words to respond to an apology is not sufficient in doing this. The argument is only resolved after both parties have talked thoroughly.

Additionally, responding “it’s okay” to a lengthy or sincere apology can make your reply seem like you are trying to belittle their attempt to make amends.

“If someone does something wrong, something hurtful, that requires an apology, we should not turn around and comfort them [by] saying, “it’s okay,” said Kayla Ann, author of Why I Don’t Say “It’s Okay” When Someone Apologizes. “Not only does it make light of their action, but it also diminishes their apology.” A two-word answer to a paragraph is not exactly the best response, as it can further antagonize your relationship with the person apologizing and make you seem irritated by their attempt to apologize.

Overall, opting to use or not use specific words and phrases can make a huge impact on how you heal your relationships with others. Apologies need more than a two-word response like “it’s okay” to truly be meaningful. Using apologies as a way to communicate with people will strengthen your bond with each other, and will teach you new ways to use your words to solve problems in your relationships, whether they be with friends or romantic partners.