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Most Common Mistake People Make in Apologizing

Aug 17, 2007
Learning the correct actions and methods to apologize is not enough. It greatly helps your understanding and success if you not only know what to do, but also what not to do. This article reveals to you the most common mistake we humans make when apologizing to people.

A Non-Apology Apology: Most Common Mistake

Parents teach their children to say please and thank you very early on. They are then later taught to apologize by saying "I'm sorry". The children are unknowingly taught by parents to say "sorry" to please their mum or dad and not actually mean the apology. These words they are taught do not sink into their minds as they miss the true reason to apologize. I certainly do not blame the little fellas.

From a young age we continue to shy away from true apologies by creating something called a non-apology apology. That is no typo. A non-apology apology is a comment that we feel compelled to say to please the offended person. It is almost an extension of a forceful apology when we were young by our parents, except with the non-apology apology we say it to please the other person out of our own self-will.

If you are after an examples of non-apology apologies, look no further than politicians. These adorable people are jammed packed with this type of apology. I do not mean to pick on politicians, but one example is Bill Clinton's remarks regarding the Lewinsky scandal. President Clinton confessed his relationship with Lewinsky was "wrong", but failed to experience guilt. It was said about his talk, that Clinton aimed to protect what he had done.

Part of the President's speech that made it a non-apology apology is: "It is important to me that everybody who has been hurt know that the sorrow I feel is genuine: first and most important, my family; also my friends, my staff, my Cabinet, Monica Lewinsky and her family, and the American people."

Another non-apology apology I came across was NFL's Detroit Lion's president Matt Millen who used an inappropriate term for gays when confronting a fellow NFL player. He said: "He made an inappropriate remark, and I reacted inappropriately. I said something I shouldn't have, which was wrong, and I apologize for that. And I apologize to anybody that I offended with that remark."

That is absolutely filled with non-apology apologies. Another example I found of many was Pierre Boivin, Montreal Canadiens' President, when he apologized for fans booing the American national anthem: "We apologize to anyone who may have been offended by this incident."

It has become a trend in public apologies to say sorry if you hurt someone. The apology is dependent on the condition someone was hurt and implies the offended has something wrong with oneself. Some more examples:

- "I'm sorry for not mowing the lawn even though it does not require cutting."
- "I apologize if I hurt anyone."
- "Please take my apology if you were offended by what I said."

To show you how easy and delicate apologizing is, check out this apology: "I'm sorry I lied to you. I feel guilty that I've let you down"

All you need to do is replace the first sentence with "I'm sorry if I lied to you." and you've destroyed your apology by making it a non-apology apology.

Do you see what kind of apology a non-apology apology is now? We use non-apology apologies to take the heat off ourselves to keep the offended person quite. It puts the onus on those we upset by implying the victim has something wrong. There is no remorse and sorry similar to what I explained with how most young children apologize. It is something you say to please the other person while protecting yourself. You try to shy away from guilt and responsibility by using a non-apology apology.

Becoming aware of these common barriers and mistakes will get you ready to successfully apologize. Knowing what not to do will guide you with what to do. By overcoming this mistakes you are now more ready to heal your relationships and strengthen the damage that set the two of you apart by learning how to apologize correctly.
About the Author
Joshua Uebergang has written for you a complete course on apologizing to get great relationships where you can discover how to apologize correctly. Joshua also has written other articles on techniques for managing conflict.
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