The very best time to apologize is the moment you think an apology is due. Waiting can dilute the sincerity of the apology. It can also make it harder to give because it gets blocked by something called pride.
A “qualified” apology is almost as bad as no apology at all. In case you‘re wondering, a qualified apology sounds something like “I am sorry if anyone was offended by something I said or did.” You might as well have said “sorry you’re such a sensitive wuss, I’ll try to avoid you in the future as much as possible.”
If an apology is due then give an apology…an unqualified apology that makes it clear there is no “if” or “but” and no chance the apology is insincere.
Apologies can’t change the past. If you said or did something that offended someone an apology isn’t going to make that offense disappear. It will likely also take some time for the hurt of the offense to pass. But a sincere apology might change your future with the offended person or people.
IF…. if the apology is sincere and is backed up with changed behavior.
You can apologize for the first transgression. Maybe even the second but repeated offenses are not mistakes, they are a choice. If you make the choice to repeatedly offend someone, whether consciously or subconsciously then you likely do not deserve forgiveness.
An apology not followed up with changed behavior is no apology at all. If you mean what you say in your apology your behavior will reflect it.
Apologizing is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, a sincere apology is a sign of strength. It demonstrates that the apology giver is confident enough to admit their mistake and smart enough to know it was a mistake in the first place.
When an apology is due it is never a mistake to offer one. There is also no expiration date on an apology. Even if you’re way late in offering one for something that happened in the past, remember as with most things, better late than never.