So I’m looking through the search terms through which people come upon this blog, and one of the ones that seems to come up rather often is some variation on “how to say you’re sorry without meaning it.” Unfortunately for these folks, the article on my blog that such a search is most likely to hit upon is about how to truly mean it when you say you’re sorry. Maybe these folks are looking for the article in which I talk about how saying you’re sorry doesn’t mean you have to feel weak. But that article is also not about faking an apology, either. So I’m going to give my thoughts here on that subject.
I guess the first thing that comes to mind is, why apologize to somebody if you don’t mean it? The fact that this is a popular enough search for me to see it coming up several times a week means that it seems to be thought of as a good enough tactic to get somebody to shut up and stop tripping one’s guilt reflex. Is that what this is all about? Saying sorry not for the sake of apologizing, but rather to get somebody off your back?
I guess I want to say to these people: you don’t have to feel guilty just because somebody else wants you to feel guilty. You don’t have to try to feel sorry for something you don’t feel sorry about. And it’s a lot better not to lie about something like this, because once your word can no longer be trusted by somebody you might as well just stay silent.
If you do think there is something that you are missing by not feeling sorry, you may often be right – but you won’t authentically connect with that important piece of information if you stonewall the process by trying to pass off a quick-fix fake apology. You can be honest that you don’t understand why somebody is upset, and make a sincere request to get at the root of things and see things from their side. If your request is accepted, you will need to do a lot of listening, and a good deal of asking questions when things don’t make sense to you.
The whole point of an apology is sincerity. Offering up an insincere apology is like kicking somebody in the head and calling it aspirin. Focus not on apologizing, but rather, on being sincere and honest, and you will end up being much better able to help somebody diffuse troubling feelings especially when they involve you. If I say so myself, that is a nice skill to have.