How To Apologize When You're Not Sorry

March 30, 2021

An apology is an act of self-abasement by a man to a woman, and generally a woman to a man, after committing a sexual assault. It is often seen as a sign of humility.

One big reason why you may not want to be the type to apologize for something you feel like you didn't do it because if you do apologize, then you become perceived as a victim, someone who felt they had to stay silent because they couldn't.

You see, being seen as a victim is one of the most common reasons why people don't say they're sorry.

"While there are many women who have the courage to speak out against sexual harassment, it's common for women to fear criticism or ostracism from others," says Donna M. Pearson, Ph.D., psychotherapist, and author of The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem.

"There are also concerns about her reputation and sometimes feeling ostracized.

When a woman feels so afraid that she stays silent, it's unlikely that she will be able to tell others about the abuse. But being perceived as a victim is a big concern."

Whether you do or do not want to be a victim, apologizing seems like an easy way to take that burden off of yourself.

If you're genuinely sorry, which you should be, this is an important step that can go a long way.


Sticky note with apology

The first thing that you should do before apologizing is to do some introspection.

Why do you feel the need to apologize? Is it because you fear that someone will criticize you, make you feel stupid, or you think you will get hurt in some way if you don't apologize?

These are all legitimate concerns, and while it may not be safe to say to yourself that you don't have a reason to apologize, it's also not completely wrong.

Rather than overthinking the situation, look within. Does this situation have something to do with yourself?

Are you not able to be comfortable with your own feelings or thoughts? Are you still blaming yourself?

Allowing yourself to examine these things will give you a better chance of responding well to other people.

Don't say something you'll regret later

This sounds obvious, but sometimes, our brains are a little twisted.

You may think you're a decent guy and that you won't say something that will later cause you to lose out on some future opportunities.

And even if you're not saying something you'll later regret, saying something that will make things worse can leave an indelible mark.

Be clear about what you are apologizing for

This will hopefully avoid an issue where someone tries to you out for being the guy who raped her and can't believe she didn't call the cops right away.

She may also be wondering why you felt the need to apologize.

While there is no harm in apologizing for what you didn't do, being clear about what you did is important.

It allows someone to identify the specific issue and see that you are being specific and sincere about your apology.

Try it out

man, sorry, apology

Just think of this as a practice run.

While apologizing may be uncomfortable, it doesn't have to be something that you avoid completely.

This is an opportunity to practice, to see how it feels.

As Pearson explains, when someone forgives someone else, it's likely for the sake of some greater good.

If you apologize but it doesn't go your way, then that could be the best thing that could happen.

Not only will you get what you want, but you can also get a clearer picture of what you could want in the future.

The best thing about apologizing is that it doesn't have to be a one-time thing.

This is something that you can use over and over again, and the more you do it, the easier it will be.

Once you've practiced the steps above, you'll be much more likely to feel comfortable speaking up when you see someone else in a situation that you've found yourself in.

Women lie, sometimes. Here's how to know for sure.

We're not experts, but we've learned a lot along the way.

For more expert advice on what to do if you're ever faced with a situation like this, listen to the full episode of Ask a Sexpert.

When you feel that you want to apologize to someone, the first step is to take a moment to breathe and organize your thoughts. You can write out your thoughts.

I recommend that you start with three bullet points of how you're not sorry. Don't worry if it sounds wrong: you'll be more likely to apologize if you take the time to think things through.

It might even help if you just sort of toss the three bullet points out to see if there's anything you're not sorry for or if you want to elaborate a little bit.

One reason to not apologize when you're not sorry is that you might not actually be sorry. Or you might think you are sorry but your actions may indicate otherwise.

There might be some details in your past that you don't remember. If you can be honest and share those with the other person, you can find out where your confusion or misunderstandings come from.

Don't make yourself the victim

Black man apologizing while talking with girlfriend

Another reason not to apologize when you're not sorry is that you might end up taking the blame for a behavior that is not yours.

When you apologize for something that someone else did, you end up giving the responsibility of response and accepting the responsibility for a lack of response.

Think about it: Who ends up apologizing when something goes wrong? What if you were the only one at fault?

Your first instinct might be to apologize for a situation that is totally unrelated to your behavior.

If you can just accept that a person has other people who are their responsibility and you need to respond to the situation at hand, it's more likely that you will actually be able to own up to your responsibility for what happened.

For example, I was involved in a very public situation recently. I was not responsible for a public comment that a public figure made, but it was my response to that comment that led to all the subsequent discussion about what was said.

A better way to respond to a comment like this would have been to:

• Read the comment and see how it impacted me.

• Respond in a private email to the person who commented.

• Say nothing and not put your response out there.

• Provide a private apology to the person who commented.

• Accept no responsibility for the ensuing response.

Your instinct might be to say "I'm sorry I got caught up in this" or "I'm sorry for the comments being made."

I don't think any apology should be conditional on what others say or do.

We need to take responsibility for our actions.

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