Watch the video here. 

One of the most essential parts of living in relationship — whether that’s a partner, child, friend, roommate, or coworker — is knowing how to apologize. We all mess up. We all make mistakes. And we all disappoint each other. The key is not being perfect; it’s knowing how to apologize when those mistakes happen.

The right apology can make it so much easier for the offended party to forgive. It can make the discussion for solutions so much lighter, more gracious, and more productive. So when you give an apology, you can’t just mumble “Sorry!” and expect everything to be better. As this adorable claymation video points out, there are four steps.

I would highly encourage you to take three minutes and watch the video above — it lists the four steps and shows a lovely example of an apology in action. But for those who want a list to reference, here are the four steps to a sincere apology:

Step 1: Acknowledge the offense. Clearly acknowledge and take ownership for what you did. Speak kindly and sincerely, without sarcasm. Take responsibility.

Step 2: Express remorse. This is where you actually say “I’m sorry,” and for good measure, explain why you’re sorry. “I never want to make you feel abandoned like that.”

Step 3: Provide an explanation. This isn’t an excuse — it’s not absolving you of guilt. But it is providing some sense for how and why you got to this place, this mistake, in the first place.

Step 4: Make amends. How are you going to make this right? What are you doing to be better and helping those you hurt to heal again?

Apology is essential. Watch the video, and then maybe take some time to practice with your partner. How can you both get better at apologizing?

Your relationship will be healthier for it.