People hate apologizing because it hurts. It hurts because it requires them to come face to face with the kind of people they really are.
With everyone’s every deed made public on the Internet these days, we’ve suddenly all developed a lot more to apologize for. But we haven’t actually gotten any sorrier, so all that means is that the number of fake apologies have gone up. And we’ve started to develop some pretty universal techniques for “apologizing” without really apologizing.
Unfortunately, telling the difference between a fake and a genuine apology can be extremely hard sometimes.
How can you recognize when someone is not authentically apologizing? In this article, we have collected information that will help you with this.
1. I am sorry if …
This is a conditional apology. It falls short of a full apology by suggesting only that something might have happened.
Examples: I am sorry if I did anything wrong, I am sorry if you were offended.
2. I am sorry that you …
This is a blame-shifting apology. It is no apology at all. Rather, it puts the onus on you as the problem.
Examples: I am sorry you felt hurt, I am sorry you think I did something wrong, I am sorry you feel I am so bad.
3. I am sorry but …
This excuse-making apology does nothing to heal the wounds caused.
Examples: I am sorry, but most other people wouldn’t have overreacted like you did, I am sorry, but other people thought it was funny.
4. I was just …
This is a justifying apology. It seeks to argue that hurtful behavior was okay because it was harmless or for a good cause.
Examples: I was just kidding, I was just trying to help, I was only trying to calm you down.
5. I have already …
This deja-vu apology cheapens whatever is said by implying that there is nothing left to apologize for.
Examples: I already said I was sorry, I have apologized for that a million times.
6. I regret …
This sidestepping apology equates regret with apologizing. There is no ownership. It’s such a useful tool in the unapologetic person’s arsenal because it doesn’t require you to admit you did anything wrong.
Examples: I regret you felt upset, I regret that mistakes were made.
7. I know I …
This whitewashing apology is an effort to minimize what happened without owning any hurtful effects on you or others. The whitewash may seem self-effacing but on its own it contains no apology.
Examples: I know I shouldn’t have done that, I know I probably should have asked you first, I know I can sometimes be a bull in a china shop.
8. You know I …
This nothing-to-apologize-for apology tries to talk you out of your feelings or imply that you shouldn’t be upset.
Examples: You know I am sorry, You know I didn’t mean that, You know I would never hurt you.
9. I will apologize if …
This pay-to-play apology is not a clean, freely offered apology. Rather, you have to pay to get it.
Examples: I will only apologize if you apologize, I will apologize if you agree never to bring it up again, I will say I am sorry if you will just stop talking about it.
10. I guess I …
This is a phantom apology. It hints at the need for an apology, but never gives one.
Examples: I guess I owe you an apology, I guess I should say I am sorry.
11. X told me to apologize …
This is a not-my-apology apology. The person is saying he or she is apologizing only because someone else suggested it. The implication is that it would have never happened otherwise.
Examples: Your mother told me to come apologize to you, My friend said I should tell you I was sorry.
12. Fine! Im sorry, okay!
This is a bullying apology. Either in words or tone you are given a grudging Im sorry but it doesn’t feel like an apology. It may even feel like a threat.
Examples: Okay, enough already, I am sorry for chrissakes, Give me a break, I am sorry, alright?
TYPES OF FAKE APOLOGIES NARCISSISTS OFTEN USE
Some people, usually narcissists and gaslighters, are apologizing only to profit from the benefits of your forgiveness. They would go over the top to make you believe they are being honestly sorry for their actions. Meanwhile, they would be tangling your mind and shifting the blame on you, so you’d easily soften and forgive them.
1. Apology in the form of a present
Flowers, candy, expensive clothing, a trip to Milano, you name it. All of this is meant to soften your heart, and fool you into forgetting the damage they’ve done. By demonstrating their love and attention, they might be secretly gaslighting or love-bombing you.
2. Defensive apology
“I’m sorry for what I’ve done, but if you hadn’t pressured me the way you did, I would never do something like that.”
That’s how a defensive apology usually sounds like. And it includes more than a little blame-shifting. To begin with, it always starts with the words “I’m sorry”, to make the one saying them appear genuine. Then, it turns into a whole lecture on how your actions pushed them into mistreating you.
This doesn’t make any sense, does it? But narcissists have their ways into fooling people around them and making them believe whatever they say. So, after hearing what they have to say, you would feel like the one in the wrong, not them.
3. Apology as a dramatic scene
The drama follows narcissists and gaslighters like a shadow. Making a whole dramatic scene is their go-to move whenever they feel trapped and can’t think of another way to get out of the situation. They start crying, throwing themselves at your feet, saying how miserable and broken they are. And all of this, just to build up your empathy and compassion.
By doing so, they hack your mind into feeling sorry for them, instead of being angry or frustrated. The outcome is usually the same – you easily forgive them because you don’t want them to feel the way they say they do. Even if they don’t really apologize.
Similar to the defensive apology, here, the one “apologizing” is doing nothing but blaming you for the damage they did. Usually, you might think it’s not that difficult to spot when someone is blame-shifting you, but in reality, that’s exactly how narcissists play with your emotions.
They use this tactic when they are certain you trust them completely and wouldn’t question their integrity. Once they feel sure blame-shifting will get in your mind and soften your heart, they establish a pattern. And every time they do something disrespectful or ill-mannered, they would just get away with it, making you believe you were the one pushing them into doing it.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR APOLOGY REAL
We don’t just use fake apologies because we think we are right all the time. We also use them because no one ever modeled real apologizing for us or made us practice apologizing correctly. So even when we see our faults, we sometimes need help getting out the right words.
To sound and to be more ‘real’ follow this six steps:
- Say, “I’m sorry that I _____.” Then you’re talking about something that definitely happened for which you are responsible.
- Explain the logic with which you rationalized the offensive behavior at the time. Usually, we stop here because we are trying to justify ourselves.
- Explain why you now think that earlier logic was wrong. You do this so they know you’ve come to see the error in your mindset.
- Bookend the apology with another statement that, “I’m sorry that I hurt you.”
- Ask, “Will you forgive me?”
- Be quiet and wait to see what they say.
This is a dangerous moment in its own way because the other person can choose to intentionally withhold their forgiveness. If you’re being genuine, them withholding forgiveness can be as toxic as a fake apology would have been. But if you do offer a genuine apology, and if they do genuinely accept it, then that completes the forgiveness cycle. And that’s a relationship’s only hope of surviving our behavior.