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6 Kinds of Apology and What They Mean

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It seems like almost every day some public figure is apologizing for saying something or doing something that others find offensive. On a private level, people are always apologizing all over the place as well. Maybe we have become an apologizing society. There are different kinds of apologies, depending on the situation. Each has a different motive and a different meaning.

Apologizing to Appease. People often apologize to control somebody’s feelings. An alcoholic goes on a drinking binge, and when he comes home his wife is waiting impatiently. Before she can express her anger, he quickly and eagerly apologizes. He doesn’t truly feel sorry about what he has done, but instead is apologizing out of fear. He wants to nip her expected expression of anger at the bud.

Therefore the apology does not come from a caring place or from remorse, and hence its meaning could be stated, “OK, I’m apologizing so just calm down.” Such an apology doesn’t mean anything and doesn’t resolve anything.

10 thoughts on “6 Kinds of Apology and What They Mean

  • February 2, 2015 at 6:55 pm

    There is another version of # two. It is also a way of apologising without
    It is that of buying something that the person who has been hurt lies or wants or needs.
    This is done in front of other people -often in a grand manner. See how ‘nice’ I am. Appreciate me. If acknowledgement is not forthcoming, he or she will let the wounded individual know just what a lowlife that person is.
    At no time has an apology been stated.

    If hurt person voices the reality of the gift to the person giving it, all hell WILL BREAK Loose.

  • February 4, 2015 at 10:59 am

    Sometimes apologies have to be forced because others are easily offend. It is like walking on eggs with them, and one must apologize or be eternally the bad guy. Of course, such apologies are not sincere.

  • February 4, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    I want to suggest- in case it is not understood, that an apology out of love should not be construed as an acknowledgment of responsibility every time. I have taught numerous clients to apologize for the impact of their actions- truly recognizing a hurt they may have unintentionally caused or created. However, they should not feel obligated to apologize for intentions that did not exist. Too many times, people perceive slights that are not what was meant. This way both individuals can get what they need- the one being heard for the distress they feel and the other for learning something about a person they care about–without having to feel guilty.

  • February 4, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    “I’m sorry “if” I hurt you” can indeed be a heartfelt apology if you have said something that has been misinterpreted and you had not intended to be hurtful. In that case they may be meaning “I’m getting the impression you took my words out of context and you are offended or hurt?… if this is the case I am sorry, because that was not my intention.” It is, therefore, a sincere apology.

    Also if you have caused an accident, by not having done something you were supposed to have done.. eg, moved a skateboard in someone’s path and thus cause them to fall and be injured, then chances are you are very remorseful and indeed, truly sorry for your neglect. Sure, you feel guilty, but also you might be truly sorry that a person you love is hurt due to something you could have/should have prevented. Chances are there is probably deep emotional pain and empathy for the victim along with the guilt.

    Apologising to be polite is quite likely not just a show to give the impression that you are a nice and considerate person, but proof that you ARE a nice and considerate person, providing you are showing your true colours and not just putting a front.

    In short, any heartfelt apology is worth it’s weight in gold. It is only invalid if you do not really feel you are sorry when you say you are.

  • February 4, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    A true apology comes from a repentive heart. When you truly feel bad for doing something,saying something,or behaving in a way that hurts another, and you choose not to do it again.

  • February 5, 2015 at 8:08 am

    Hello all…

    I propose a seventh type that’s really important. It is apology six plus an added… “And I will endeavour not to repeat what I did that hurt you”.

    To me, that is the fullest and most meaningful. It says, I will be mindful of your feelings and try my best not to repeat what caused you hurt.

    My view is the second element- – do my best not to do it again is near perfect since its about what will happen as well as what did happen.

    What do you think ? ? ?

  • February 6, 2015 at 7:41 am

    A quiet, cautionary finger; let’s not raise the bar so high that none but the most perfect apology is acceptable, shall we? All of us have our burdens and wounds that make certain things very difficult to own up to, and allowing others wiggle room should be seen as less an act of weakness or Charity on our part and more of a recognition of “there but for the grace of God go I.”
    Thanks for the article.

  • February 6, 2015 at 8:46 pm

    This article really made me think about apologies I have received. Do you have any insight into what could be called the recurring apology? That is when you get the same apology from the same person for the same behavior over and over again. For example, every month the doctor you see apologizes for being late every time you have an appointment. Or, the person you carpool to work with forgets to pick you up at least once a month, but always apologizes. Do these people really believe that their apologizes still mean something after you hear it repeatedly?

    • February 6, 2015 at 10:52 pm

      Again I think it depends on the sincerity of the person giving the apology as to whether it can be counted as an apology. Perhaps the doctor truly regrets that he is running late yet AGAIN and perhaps the car pool guy is kicking himself for his crap ass memory… or perhaps neither really care and are just trying to appease you with an apology. Either way, the apology starts to wear off on you after they consistently fail you and it might come to a point that “sorry” no longer makes everything ok.

  • March 6, 2018 at 9:33 pm

    The “guilt apology” is not a good example. That example could easily be a show of remorse not guilt. Guilt can lead to remorse. People really shouldn’t make sweeping judgements, especially about people they don’t know or understand. In this circumstance it’s even more ridiculous because the person whose apology is being judged is not even real. You’d think a person writing for a psychology site would be able to see things with more distance, understanding, and creativity. But psychology doesn’t really require or even desire creativity in its practitioners.


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