Why non-apologies SUCK

Kelli Wilson

The non-apology: let’s face it, we have all received probably more than we can count. If we are honest, we have probably been on the giving end as well. What differentiates a non-apology from a genuine one, and why do those less-than-genuine ones hurt so much?

Anytime an apology places blame, whether big or small, on the person receiving the apology, it is a non-apology.  Think of it as a way to apologize without taking 100% responsibility for the offense. I was recently on the receiving end of a backhanded apology, and, yes, while it was painful, I realized that the perpetrator likely had no idea what they were actually doing. It was blatantly obvious that they didn’t believe that they had done anything wrong, and they were just going through the motions of the apology to both satisfy me and their precious pride.  

It made me feel like the hurt and pain that I was feeling were somehow either not genuine or otherwise not necessary because I was overreacting. That is what the non-apology does to the receiver. It makes them feel like their voice, their feelings, don’t matter. “I’m sorry IF I hurt you,” meaning, are you really hurt? “I’m sorry IF I offended you,” meaning, you are overly sensitive.

At some point we have to decide if our pride and ego are more important than someone else’s experience during a contentious or even seemingly non-contentious situation.  It doesn’t matter if you intended to hurt or cause offense or not, what matters is that they are heard and believed. These feelings deserve validation from an actual and sincere apology.  Admitting any wrongdoing doesn’t make you appear weak, it shows rather that you are at the very least sympathetic, which is a trait that is to be celebrated.

Could you imagine living in a world where people are not afraid to speak their truth, their pain? Where they are heard and not doubted, listened to and not ridiculed? Where they are not afraid to speak because they KNOW that they matter, that they deserve respect? That is the world that I want for my kids and the generations to follow. Practicing giving sincere apologies is a good way to start facilitating that.