You don't want to make things worse.

The Golden Girls: Dorothy and Blanche Arguing in Grocery Store
Credit: Gene Arias/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

When it comes to apologies, you're likely all-too familiar with the half-hearted kind. A loved one messes up and says sorry, but doesn't fully claim the transgression, and you're left feeling like things haven't been made quite right. In fact, you may have even fallen prey to these lukewarm reparations once, twice, or a few too many times to count. They go something like this:

"I'm sorry, but..."

Yes, it's true: "but" is the word you should never use while expressing regret for a wrongdoing.

In fact, the best apologies are forthright and succinct, and don't offer any self-rationalization for the behavior. In a New York Times column, writer Jane E. Brody talks to psychologist Harriet Lerner, author of "Why Won't You Apologize?"

"Humans are hard-wired for defensiveness," Dr. Lerner points out to The Times. "It's very difficult to take direct, unequivocal responsibility for our hurtful actions. It takes a great deal of maturity to put a relationship or another person before our need to be right."

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Oh, and scrap the phrase "I'm sorry you feel that way" from your vocabulary entirely. According to Lerner, this conveys that you're not actually sorry at all. Altogether, the best of apologies are those which take full blame for the act, offer a valid solution, and pledge progress (or at least to work on the issue!) in the coming days. No one's perfect, but consistently striving to improve is key within any healthy and successful relationship. And, not to mention, for human growth as a whole.

So cut back all the needless explanations, and just say sorry flat-out. Making amends has never been so simple and satisfying.