I was speaking to someone recently who said he hates the fact that so many people refuse to say ‘sorry’

"It wasn’t like that in the past," he continued. "People, politicians and big companies all used to make apologies. These days, they spend their lives dreaming up excuses, which get more and more fanciful, rather than admitting they’ve been wrong."

Certainly, as a therapist, I lost count of the number of men and women who were seriously distressed that a partner who had left them, or an absent or abusive parent, had never apologised for their actions.

I remember one woman who had been suspicious for more than a year that her husband was having an affair. He ridiculed her anxieties and told her she was ‘mad’ and that she should see a counsellor, which is why she sought me out. He was adamant he was blameless, and she was ‘paranoid’.

Guess what happened? One day she came home from a visit to her mother, that he had suggested, and found he had cleared out all his possessions, and their joint bank account too. He had had a mistress all along.

What he did was not just duplicitous but cruel in the extreme because he made her, and others, question her sanity.

I hope she recovered in the end. I do know she went to a hotshot solicitor and the husband must have ended up a lot poorer. His behaviour was totally unreasonable.

If only he had said one day: "I’m so sorry but I’ve fallen in love with someone else and I want a divorce", things would still have been difficult, I’m sure, but far less acrimonious.

A lack of apology though is becoming far too commonplace. Many companies refuse to admit errors to customers or clients because they fear being sued. But I honestly believe that a swift apology mends fences far sooner.

As for people in public life, don’t get me started on that one. Do they not realise how false and unbelievable they sound when they start a so-called apology by saying something like: "If by any chance I have hurt people/acted badly/misunderstood the situation…". These are weasel words constructed to get someone off the hook who plainly doesn’t believe he or she is to blame. Everyone knows they’re not sorry.

And yet, being sorry is a healthy attitude of mind. We all make mistakes but usually we feel so much better when we apologise for them. I particularly admire parents who can say sorry to their kids when they misjudge them, or shout at them unnecessarily. This shows respect and is the right thing to do.

It was during my training as a therapist that I began to recognise how vital it is for our mental health, as well as our sense of decency, to take ownership and responsibility for our own thoughts and deeds.

It seemed to me then, and I believe this even more now, that an early and contrite apology when we know we’ve done something wrong is beneficial not only for the recipient but for us too. Of course, we risk facing some anger, but confessing we’ve broken Mum’s favourite vase, or admitting we just forgot to turn up for a meeting, can actually feel something of a relief. The alternative is to go around making up feeble excuses or lies, but never managing to shake off the guilt that we should have said ‘sorry’.

The other point to remember is that we can look really stupid, if we don’t own up to a mistake.

Years ago, my late husband used to pop up frequently on TV and radio to talk about health issues. One day he was asked to give expert opinion on the illnesses that happen to men as they age. I recall he was delighted about this particular job as he was a fan of the presenter, who was a household name.

During the programme, he spent most of the time talking about the prostate and how often it tends to cause difficulties in older men. The only problem was that the presenter called it the ‘prostrate’ throughout the interview, but as it was live, no one dared correct her.

They reached the end of the show, and once they were off air, she said cheerily: ‘That went well, didn’t it?’

Unable to stop himself, my husband replied: "Well, it was unfortunate that you kept saying prostrate when we were talking about the prostate gland."

If she had apologised there and then, he would probably have been gracious about it and said: "It’s an easy mistake to make, especially when you’re busy and have so much on your mind."

But instead, she got very shirty and shouted: "The producer told me to call it that," before sweeping out of the studio.

The whole crew fell about laughing at this ridiculous behaviour. No one should ever feel they’re too grand to admit an error.

A simple, heartfelt, "I’m so sorry," can work wonders. Let’s not allow it to go out of fashion.