If You’re Sorry and You Know It, Then Say So!

I hate the “non-apology apology” because it neither conveys remorse, nor an acceptance of responsibility, but it somehow makes the person saying it seem sincere. A common example is when someone says, “I’d like to apologize to anyone who was offended.” An individual who says this not only believes that something they said was wrong, but they also believe that whoever may have taken offense was probably overly sensitive. Even if the person apologizing specifically says that he or she is “sorry,” that doesn’t mean they accept responsibility for their actions, or that they are regretful, yet they are trying to produce a response of forgiveness.

According to Wikipedia, a non-apology apology can also be called a “nonpology,” or “fauxpology.” Whatever it’s called, it needs to stop. There is a right way, and a wrong way to apologize. An article titled, “The right (and wrong) way to apologize” on CNN’s website said that many high-profile apologies by celebrities and politicians fall into the right and wrong categories and can be easily spotted as to which way they fell.

Many of these high-profile apologies starts out correctly, but then change course to deflect much of the criticism and may actually defend a person’s reprehensible words or actions.  For example, an individual may say that they were drunk and didn’t realize what they were doing, that it happened a long time ago, or that they have changed and are no longer that person. An honest apology is a powerful means to acknowledging wrongdoing and wanting to make amends. If you’re truly sincere about being sorry for your actions, then you’ll follow these rules.

The person apologizing first needs to say that he or she is sorry, or use the words, “I apologize.” Next, that person needs to express regret at what they said or did. Then, accept responsibility, and finally offer to help “fix” any problems or hurt feelings. Doing those things can lay the foundation, but to go the extra mile of sincerity, the person could also admit what they said or did was wrong, explain why it was wrong, promise it won’t happen again, empathize with the victims, and ask for forgiveness.

Now, the next time you hear someone apologize, whether it’s in the media, or directly to your face, you’ll know which category it falls into. Don’t accept the non-apology apology.

Originally featured in UBA’s January 2017 “HR Elements”. 

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