11 kinds of insincere apologies


“Genuine remorse and apology can restore lost trust, lubricate wounds and restore relationships,” says family therapist Dan Newhart. “But insincere only aggravate the discord.” He identifies 11 types of such apologies.

1. “Sorry if …”

Such an apology is incomplete, since a person does not take full responsibility for his words and actions, but only “assumes” that something “could” have happened.


  • “Sorry if I did something wrong.”
  • Sorry if that offended you.

2. “Well, I’m sorry if you …”

These words transfer the blame to the victim. This is not an excuse at all.

  • “Well, I’m sorry if you’re offended.”
  • “Well, forgive me if it seems to you that I did something wrong.”
  • “Well, I’m sorry if you feel so bad.”

3. “Sorry, but …”

Such a qualified apology cannot heal the emotional trauma that has been inflicted.

  • “Sorry, but others in your place would not react so violently.”
  • “Sorry, although many would find it funny.”
  • “Sorry, although you yourself started”.
  • “Sorry, I just couldn’t help it.”
  • “Sorry, although I was partly right after all.”
  • “Well, I’m sorry I’m not perfect.”

4. “I just …”

This is a self-justifying apology. The person claims that the act that hurt you was actually harmless or justified.

  • “I’m just kidding.”
  • “I just wanted to help.”
  • “I just wanted to calm you down.”
  • “I just wanted to show you a different point of view.”

5. “I’ve already apologized”

The person discounts their apology by stating that it is no longer necessary.

  • “I’ve already apologized.”
  • “I’ve apologized for this a million times already.”

6. “I’m sorry that …”

The interlocutor tries to pass off his regret as an apology, without taking responsibility.

  • “I’m sorry you’re upset.”
  • “I am sorry that mistakes were made.”

7. “I understand that …”

He tries to minimize the significance of his action and justify himself, not taking responsibility for the pain that he caused you.

  • “I understand that I shouldn’t have done that.”
  • “I understand I should have asked you first.”
  • “I understand that sometimes I behave like an elephant in a china shop.”

And one more variation: “You know that I …”

He’s trying to pretend that there’s really nothing to apologize for and that you shouldn’t be so upset.

  • “You know I’m sorry.”
  • “You know I didn’t really mean it.”
  • “You know I would never hurt you.”

8. “I will apologize if you …”

In this case, the abuser asks you to “pay” something for his apology.

  • “I’ll apologize if you apologize.”
  • “I’m sorry if you promise to never bring this up again.”

9. “Probably …”

This is just a hint of an apology, which is actually not there.

  • “I must probably apologize to you.”

ten. “[Кто-то] told me to apologize to you ”

This is someone else’s apology. The abuser only apologizes because he was asked, otherwise he would hardly have done it.

  • “Your mom told me to apologize to you.”
  • “A friend said that I must apologize to you.”

11. “Okay! Sorry! Satisfied?”

This “apology” sounds more like a threat in tone.

  • “Okay, enough! I’ve already apologized! “
  • “Stop pestering me! I apologized! “


If a person asks for forgiveness sincerely, he:

  • does not set any conditions and does not try to play down the significance of what happened;
  • clearly demonstrates that he understands your feelings and cares about you;
  • really repents;
  • promises that this will not happen again;
  • if appropriate, offers to somehow compensate for the damage caused.

“Any apology is meaningless if we are not ready to listen carefully to the victim and understand the pain they caused him,” says psychotherapist Harriet Lerner. “He must see that we really understood this, that our sympathy and repentance are sincere, that his pain and resentment are legitimate, that we are ready to do everything possible so that what happened does not happen again.” Why are so many trying to get away with insincere apologies? Perhaps they feel like they haven’t really done anything wrong and are just trying to keep the peace in the relationship. Maybe they are ashamed and try their best to avoid these unpleasant feelings.

“If a person almost never apologizes for their mistakes and misdeeds, perhaps he has a reduced ability to empathy or he suffers from low self-esteem or personality disorder,” says Dan Newhart. Whether it is worth continuing to communicate with such a person is a subject for a separate discussion.

About the author: Dan Newhart is a family therapist.

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