There is something that rubs me the wrong way about people who cannot, don’t or won’t say “Sorry”. I have come across a few people in my life who, even when they know that they are undoubtedly at fault, cannot succumb to the ‘S’ word, as it if would crumble their very being. For me it’s pretty simple. If you have done something wrong, or that has impacted someone negatively: you say sorry, you feel sorry. It shows you care enough about that person’s well-being and that you admit that you are feeling guilt.
Guilt Vs Shame
I did some research on people who can’t apologise and what I found was that it usually comes down to one major point: People cannot apologise because instead of guilt, they feel shame. There is a big difference between the emotions of guilt and shame. Guilt is being upset and caring about affecting others in a negative way. Shame on the other hand, is feeling bad about yourself and attacks your ego and self-esteem. So guilt is directed towards others, and shame is toward yourself. These ‘non-apologists’ find it difficult to separate the two.
Shame on your ego
Let’s talk about ego. The definition of ego is ‘a persons sense of self-esteem or self importance’ Ego is the mental image that we have of ourselves. It is our very sense of identity. And when we feel shame we pull down our ego/self-worth a notch. For some people that is too much. Usually those people have a fragile ego, are insecure and already have a low sense of self-worth, which they are trying to hide from the rest of the world. They have created an ego/persona so far from the person they really are. When we apologise and feel guilt we acknowledge that we have hurt another person. When we apologise and feel shame, we decide that we are bad people.
We apologise in hopes to find resolution and to repair damage, but those who cannot, think that apologies will lead to further accusations and criticism. The fear of this, and letting everyone know how fragile, or what a fraud they really are, cause a block in the ability to say the word ‘sorry’. The thing is, everybody makes mistakes and being sorry about something does not make you globally a bad person. Most of the time it comes down to a lapse of judgement.
When sorry isn’t sorry
Another thing that non-apologists do is to say sorry in a round about way that doesnt actually mean sorry.
Some common non-apologies are listed below:
“I’m sorry for the way this all turned out”
This means I’m sorry about the overall outcome but I don’t necessarily acknowledge my fault in this matter.
“I’m sorry that I couldn’t be the person that you wanted me to be”
This is a blatant shift of blame meaning “It’s your own fault for having too high an expectation of me.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way”
This means “You should feel different about this, it’s your own fault for choosing to be upset, angry, hurt, disappointed…etc.”
My response to all of the above is usually a “You can just fuck off now!” or something inspired by this phrase. Don’t be fooled into accepting an apology that isn’t one.
The pretend it didn’t happen tactic:
Some people don’t apologise, go MIA for a little while ad then come back pretending like it didn’t happen. And then go further to blame you for not getting over it, moving forward or living in the past.
-“Cant we just get past this?
-“No. Not really. Not until you apologise.”
The sarcastic “S” word:
“Fine, Sorry!”, “If thats what you need to hear” Apologising is about the words, the tone and the feeling of guilt. A sarcastic sorry snaps out an accusation not an apology. The non-apologist is dismissive and accuses the other person of being petty and demanding.
The baby talk “Sorry”:
“Awww, I’m shawy” with puppy dog eyes. Ugh this is shallow, condescending and manipulative. Feel free to show your “Shawy” up your ass.
The Suck up:
Said non-apologists may start being super nice to you but still won’t say ‘sorry’, in hopes that you will see their good deeds as an apology and forget all about it.
A Genuine Apology
When you say sorry
- Understand why you are saying sorry.
- Explain to the person why you are saying sorry so they know that you understand what you did wrong.
- Say the words “I’m Sorry”.
- Offer a reason, not an excuse for your behavior, or explain that you don’t have one.
- Feel guilty, never angry.
- Take steps to change or repair the damage.
- Learn from your mistakes and don’t repeat them.
Somehow, ‘Sorry’ became harder to say than ‘I love you’ or ‘I need you’, based on its ties to feeling shame and damaging one’s ego. When you can sever these ties and apologise and still survive, you become free and empowered. You become a better person for being able to care for others.
Feel free to comment about your experience with people who cannot apologise and What makes a great apology?