10 ways to spoil an apology

1. Hang the blame in mid-air.

I’m sorry if there was a miscommunication.


2. Pin the blame on the other person’s feelings

I’m sorry you feel this way…


3. Pin the blame on their actions

I’m sorry. But there really wasn’t any other option after you did X…


4. Use a great big BUT.

I’m sorry but… c’mon! What do you expect?!


5. Express so much grief, there’s no room for the feelings of the other person

You can’t know how incredible sorry I am. Believe me, I am going through hell right now just reliving my stupid, selfish, unconscionable sin. I have screwed up and it is eating me alive. I’m not sleeping, I’m not eating, I’m constantly itchy…


6. Keep it general and always use IF

We’re sorry if our services didn’t live up to your expectations.


7. Be sorry for everything (and therefore nothing)

I am so, so, sorry if I did anything to hurt you, I take it all back, whatever it was. 


8. Turn your confession into a confessional

You know I had a really distant Father and my constant fear of betrayal makes me push people away before they get a chance to hurt me. My counsellor says I need to go easy on myself but I think really it dates back to…


9. Pretend your motives were pure.

I only had the best of intentions, it’s just unfortunate how things worked out…


10. Apologise to regain control

I’m sorry. There, I said it. Now let’s put this behind us, (right now).




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13 thoughts on “10 ways to spoil an apology

  1. I’ve not thought of this a lot before, so thank you for pointing it out. Seriously, good reminders.
    I wouldn’t mind seeing a few words on proper and effective ways to apologize.

    I know this example is superficial really, but… I recently fired my (expensive) lawn service pointing out that i gave total free reign and only they had touched the lawn from May thru Oct, during which time it went from average nice to dead yellow and weedy etc. The owner apologized saying, ” I’m sorry you think we contributed to the demise of your lawn.” ?

  2. Another version of #10. God has forgiven me. You need to forgive me too.

  3. No. 11 disassociate yourself from the apology ‘i’m sorry I did that to you, but i’m not that person any more’ (since it so obviously ticked you off ten minutes ago)

  4. Thanks Suzanne and Larry. I suspect there are many, many more…
    Karl – !! Words fail me on your lawn apology.

  5. I’m really sorry you felt you had to make this list… BUT, its probably something in your attitude that causes you to get offended by apologies like this… BECAUSE the world is full of well meaning people who would likely do it correctly if they had only been shown…AND they feel really really really (really) bad over what they’ve done already…SO I wonder if you could just get over it and move on…

    Wonderful list.

    In all seriousness, its so hard to navigate this kind of thing. As either party! I find I want to “forgive” quickly and move forward as if nothing ever happened. But I have also found that is not very helpful except in the most minor of infractions. For habitual and serious offenders (the ones likely to use these kinds) their apology is better met with clear boundaries and even clearer consequences. Which is really hard. I totally suck at boundaries. And I’m even worse at following through with consequences, so I have a lot of experience with these very sorry sorrys.

    I think maybe true repentance is a sincere sorry followed by amends, or a willingness of amends. Contrition is a word we don’t hear much anymore, but that would give weight to the apology.

  6. Very wise Caroline – thank you. Yes, there’s no perfect apology – but as you say, sincerity and willingness to make amends go a long long way

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