Getting someone to apologize can be like pulling teeth. If they don’t think they did anything wrong, they will not want to apologize to you. They may try to cop out by giving fake apologies that aren’t apologies. 

I won’t lie; sometimes, it’s easier to just go along with the fake apologies. That doesn’t mean you have to forgive them for what they did. What it does mean is accepting you’re not going to get a real apology and just moving on with your life. Depending on the person, calling them out on their bs may cause more harm than good. 

What you do with their fake apologies is up to you. I’m here to help you spot some common ways people try to weasel out of owning up to their mistakes. 

“I’m sorry you’re offended.”

This one is a classic. “I’m sorry you’re offended.” People who say this are essentially rejecting the hurt they’ve caused and see no problem with their actions. They want to push any repercussions onto you and make you out to be the bad guy because you have feelings. 

You having feelings is not something someone else should be apologizing for. The way you react to someone doing something bad is valid. You’re not “overreacting” by being upset over what they did to you. Normal human beings have feelings and get upset when others hurt them.

Fake apologies like this one very much feel like an older person’s way of giving a backhanded apology. Like, “Oh, I’m sorry your generation is full of so many snowflakes who get offended over the littlest thing.” Which is a whole other can of worms I’m not going to get into here. 

If someone’s apology to you is contingent on your reaction, it’s not a genuine apology. 

“I’m sorry if I upset you.”

Conditional apologies are not real apologies. Apologies are not supposed to be “if, then” statements. People who try to apologize like this are not taking responsibility for their actions. They push the wrongdoing onto you by making it your fault for acting “unreasonably.” 

Fake apologies like this also imply that they didn’t do anything wrong if you aren’t visibly upset, which is not how apologies work. If they did something wrong, they should apologize for it. Period. 

Apologies are not contingent on the degree of hurt caused. Fake apologies can even make people feel worse. Either they gaslight people into questioning themselves, or the person making the fake apology comes off as rude and arrogant. Either way, it’s a lose-lose. 

If someone’s apology to you is conditional on how you reacted, it’s not a real apology.

“I’m sorry you feel that way.”

Blame-shifting apologies are about as passive-aggressive as it gets. There’s no accountability, and the subtext is always trying to make you the problem rather than owning up to what they did. 

Why would anyone need to apologize to you about your feelings? The answer is that they don’t. They’re making fake apologies to make you feel bad and have no intention of trying to make up for what they did. 

Apologies like this are what I would use if I were convinced I had done nothing wrong and was feeling particularly stubborn. I would also use this fake apology with people I was either incredibly upset with or didn’t care about. When you truly care about someone, you make their feelings a priority to you, and you don’t try to blame them when you mess up. 

“I’m sorry I was just trying to help.”

No one likes excuses, and trying to shove them into an apology isn’t going to help anything. If you hurt someone, why you did it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you try to make up for it and do what you can to heal any damage you may have caused.

By making an excuse like “I’m sorry, I was just trying to help” people are minimizing their actions and trying to justify what they did. Minimizing and justifying their actions isn’t for them to decide, and it’s a total cop-out to avoid responsibility. If they were genuinely sorry, they would do whatever it took to make things right with you without excuses.

It can be challenging for people to take responsibility for their actions but trying to justify them only makes it seem like what they did was okay because they were doing it for you. Weirdly enough, doing something hurtful for others is still hurtful. 

“I’m sorry you took it that way.”

This is another classic example of shifting blame. It’s basically the same as saying, “I’m sorry you think I did something wrong.” That’s not how you apologize to someone for wrongdoing. That’s how you make fake apologies to avoid accountability. 

Doing something wrong is wrong regardless of how other people take it. Yeah, there are some gray situations, but reacting poorly to something someone else did doesn’t make them blameless. 

“I’ll say sorry if you will.”

This is what experts call a “pay to play” apology. Depending on the situation, it can seem fair – you both apologize for your wrongdoings, and that’s that. The problem is when you haven’t actually done anything wrong. Agreeing to this is tricking you into accepting blame when you shouldn’t be taking any. 

It can be a gaslighting tactic, and over time you’ll begin to question your actions. Will you need to apologize in the future the next time they do something that upsets you? Fake apologies like this can be dangerous in the long run if you aren’t careful. Calling someone out for pay-to-play apologies is tricky and will definitely not end quietly. 

If they’re sorry, they’re sorry. No ifs, ands, or buts.

Someone who is truly sorry for what they’ve done apologizes while hoping for forgiveness. They should not demand it. I know it can be hard when you mess up not trying to justify or rationalize your actions. It feels like if you don’t, you come off as a horrible person. 

Other times we try to justify ourselves because we didn’t mean to cause any harm, and apologizing makes it feel like you’re not getting to show your side of the story. Sometimes you need to pull up your adult pants and do it anyway. 

Even when you feel like you weren’t in the wrong, it’s worth it to make real apologies to the people you care about. Nobody is perfect, and they’ll be far more understanding if you try to make up for what happened than if you make fake apologies to sweep things under the rug. 

On the flip side, when you’re the one who is hurt it can be hard to accept apologies. Just try to give people the benefit of the doubt and hope they’ll make a real effort to make things up to you. 

Luckily most people will apologize when they mess up. One study found that 81% of people will apologize when they feel they’ve done something wrong. It’s the other 19% (and the ones who feel they don’t need to apologize) that you should look out for. 

If you want to know what a proper apology looks like, check out our blog on saying “I’m sorry” the right way.

Have you ever found yourself making fake apologies? What was your reason for doing so?

1 Comment

  1. […] that guilt, sometimes people make apologies that aren’t real apologies. (We even wrote a blog about how they do […]

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