According to licensed mental health counselor Chautè Thompson, LMHC, you should apologize to someone any time you know you have wronged or hurt them in any type of way—whether you did it purposely or unintentionally.
If you’re unsure whether you’ve upset someone and need to apologize, there are both explicit and more subtle signs you can pick up on. Houyuan Luo, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and therapist, says that in some cases, “the person explicitly lets you know that you have done something wrong.” But even if they don’t tell you directly, Luo says to keep an eye out for when “the person acts differently than usual. For example, if you two always enjoy a good glass of wine, but the other person suddenly doesn’t enjoy it that much, it might be a subtle sign that something happened.”
As Thompson adds, “You know you need to apologize to someone when you can internally feel you have offended them, when you can visibly see, through the person’s facial and/or body expressions, that you have offended them.
Here are some signs that you may have done something that merits an apology without the person directly telling you, from Thompson and Luo: