It’s good that they’re apologizing. That’s the first step towards accountability and forgiveness. However, for the apology to have any effect, it has to be genuine and promise change. Often, people just apologize to manipulate their way out of trouble. Here’s how to tell the difference.
They Don’t Understand Why They’re Apologizing
You can’t mean an apology if you don’t understand why it’s needed. If they’re not showing any awareness of why what they did was wrong, then they will likely keep on repeating that mistake. They’re just looking for you to stop nagging them.
They Make It All About Themselves
They should be sorry for the way their actions made you feel, not how bad they feel now. By trying to justify their actions and bringing in their own experience, they risk trivializing the intensity of your feelings.
They might even be trying to earn your pity under the disguise of empathy.
They Didn’t Think The Apology Was Warranted
If they feel justified in their actions, they might apologize just to appease you. The reasons vary, but for example, some studies have actually found that men are more reluctant to admit wrongdoing because they have a “higher threshold” for what situations warrant an apology.
This just means that you’re not on the same page about the definitions of what is “bad” or “offensive.”
They Apologize Out Of Guilt
If an apology comes from a place of guilt and not necessarily remorse, then they’re probably just apologizing to make themselves, not you, feel better.
It’s like earning your forgiveness erases what they did and they can move on guilt-free, whether or not they plan on doing it again.
They’re Just Tired Of Arguing
An apology shouldn’t just be a means to end an argument. Just because they’re getting bored and tired of fighting doesn’t mean that they should issue an apology just to end it.
This kind of “I’m sorry” doesn’t reflect that they care, just that they’re bored.
Their Apology Is Conditional (“I’m Sorry If…”)
They’re not apologizing if they did something wrong. They should be apologizing because they know they did.
This half-effort falls short of a full apology because it suggests that their wrongdoing only might have happened, implying that it could also just be your exaggeration or misunderstanding.
“I’m Sorry You Feel That Way”
The intent of this apology is to shift the blame so that you feel bad for making a big deal and apologize for your feelings (which you’re entitled to), rather than them owning up for having caused them.
This apology points to you as the problem (which you’re not).
Negating The Apology With A “But”
Saying “I’m sorry, but…” automatically makes it so the word “but” cancels out all the words preceding it. It’s like saying “the words I just said don’t matter because I have an excuse.”
There should be no “buts” about the apology. They should feel sorry, and that’s it.
They Tell You That You’re Exaggerating
Even if a person apologizes but adds that it felt like it was an exaggeration, it shows that they don’t actually have any regrets for what they did.
Rather, they want to normalize their behavior and make you feel bad for thinking it’s wrong. Maybe that way they’ll condition you into not getting mad next time.
They Say That They Were Just Kidding
If they make it all seem like it was one big joke, then it’s your fault for not laughing and taking offense. However, even jokes have limits and shouldn’t be at someone else’s expense.
It’s as if the words “I was just kidding” instantly neutralize all offenses. They don’t.
It Turns Into A Whole Show
There is no law that states that the more dramatically you make an apology, the more sincere it’ll come off.
If they’re getting down to their knees and begging for forgiveness, just repeating “I’m sorry,” then they’re using their theatrics as a manipulation tactic to give them a pass without actually being genuine. Especially if they don’t show any intention of changing.
Their Words And Actions Don’t Match Up
An apology shouldn’t always be accepted right there and then. Sometimes you need to give it time to play out.
If what they say in the moment can’t be supported by what they do in the future, then they’ve proven that they can’t take ownership of their actions.
They Wish You Would Just “Get Over It” ASAP
You’re not required to just get over it because they’ve apologized. You should take the time that you need to process your feelings and accept the apology without pressure.
Expecting you to get over it ASAP undermines the apology and shows they’re not truly understanding your feelings.
They Think Apologizing Is Humiliating
Maybe sometimes you need to swallow your pride in order to give a sincere apology, but taking accountability is actually a sign of growth and strength.
If they can’t see that, then they need to understand that taking the easy way out, and not putting in the effort to understand wrongdoing, is what actually makes them “weak” and diminishes them in your eyes.
They Use The Apology As A Means Of Control
They shouldn’t be asking for anything in return just because they recognized they were at fault. Watch out if they ever use their apology as an exchange, such as, “Now that I said ‘sorry,’ you need to also do this…”
This just means they apologized to put an end to the situation so they can pull your strings.
Telling You That You’re Taking It All Wrong
This is another deflection technique. It’s a way of making the problem about the way you interpreted what they did, rather than what they did. Even if their intentions were pure, what matters is how their actions played out.
They should own up to the consequences, whether they thought it would play out differently or not.
Reminding You They’ve Already Apologized
Although there needs to be a healthy balance of forgiveness and apologizing, they shouldn’t complain about having to apologize more than once, especially if it’s for a repeated offense.
This is tactic is referred to as a “dejà vu apology,” and it comes in ways such as saying, “I’ve already apologized for a dozen times,” which neutralizes everything said before. It even implies that they have nothing to apologize for.
Apologizing As A Formality (It Has The Word “Probably”)
An apology shouldn’t be accompanied with words such as “probably,” “maybe,” and “perhaps.” Regret and remorse should be certain. They should be sure of what they did wrong and why they should apologize for.
Saying something like “I probably should have…” is more of a formality so that they can say they apologized and move on.
They Can’t Separate Their Actions From Their Character
Some people take blame as a direct attack on their character. They refuse to believe they’re actually in the wrong because they’re afraid this one mistake is just a reflection of the entirety of their being.
They can’t truly apologize until they understand that just because they did something bad doesn’t mean they are bad.
“I’m Sorry For Everything”
This is way too general of an apology. What exactly are they sorry for? This shows that they didn’t actually think about what they did, but if they group it all together, then maybe you won’t notice their lack of understanding.
It’s a way to rush the apology so that you don’t have to talk about each issue separately.