Healing broken and impaired relationships is a central part of recovery from addiction, and it can require making a series of deep, heartfelt apologies to those who are closest to you. Doing your part to say that you are sorry for any pain you caused, however, is a little more nuanced than you might think. There are a variety of ways that we say that we’re sorry to one another, many of which actually do not make for an apology at all. These not-quite-apologies are commonly referred to as “non-apology apologies,” “fauxpologies,” and “nonpologies.” Here are some common ways that we say we’re sorry without actually making a sincere apology.
Apologizing in the passive
Sometimes people apologize by saying something along the lines of “mistakes were made.” Speaking in the passive voice in this way, however, completely leaves out who was responsible for those mistakes that were made. If you are the person making the apology, it’s highly important to emphasize that you are taking responsibility for your own actions. So instead of saying, “mistakes were made,” a better phrase to reach for would be “I made a mistake.”
Using “if” (or any other conditional)
We’ve all heard this one numerous times. You might hear someone say, “I’m sorry if my comment offended anyone,” or “I’m sorry if what I did hurt your feelings.” The problem with this “ifpology” is that it shifts blame onto the offended party instead of placing blame on the person who actually made the mistake. When in doubt, people should always refrain from using the word “if” (or any other conditional modifier) when making an apology.
Apologizing for a consequence
This is another type of non-apology that shifts blame away from the person who made the mistake. You might hear someone say something like, “I’m sorry that my comments were misinterpreted” or “I’m sorry that such-and-such happened.” But apologizing for something that happened, rather than for what you actually did, is an evasive way to get out of accepting blame for your own actions.
Many people make excuses when they apologize. They might say something along the lines of, “I’m sorry for saying what I said; I was just tired.” This type of apology is tempting because it gives you the chance to offer someone else some context surrounding your actions, but ultimately it works to shift the blame away from yourself and onto some sort of circumstance. When making an apology, it’s important to remember to “never ruin an apology with an excuse.”
Sometimes we make accusations when we apologize, saying something like, “I’m sorry for saying what I said; but to be fair you said similarly hurtful things to me.” A sincere apology, however, is never followed by a “but” or an accusation.