My Photo




  • FREE e-Letter

    Tips from
    The Queen of Rejection®

    Your First and Last Name:
    Your Email Address:

Entries categorized "Blame/Blaming"

When Apologies are Non-apologies

By Elayne Savage, PhD

#205 Non=apology photo                                             © Can Stock Photo / 72soul


Just about as soon as I had posted my August blog on how apologies seemed to be missing in action, there now seems to be one political apology after another.


Have you noticed?


Behaviors and comments seem to become more outrageous with each day. Our political figures seem to be throwing more shade than ever, and the slurs are more derogatory and the misrepresentations and outright lying and acts of dishonesty wrapped up in entitlement are more than I ever imagine could even happen. Conduct which seems to occur repeatedly.


Have you noticed?


And when there is an apology offered, most often it is of the non-apology variety, full of justifications and rationalizations for very unclassy, hurtful, denigrating, and often intentionally mean-for-meanness-sake behavior.


Have you noticed?


I mentioned non-apologies last month: “For many of us, apologizing is really hard to do. Too often we may find ourselves making a non-apology: removing ourselves from the equation by not really taking responsibility for our actions: ‘I’m sorry you felt like that, or I’m sorry you got upset.’


It would mean a lot for the other person to hear,

‘I’m sorry I hurt you’

or ‘I’m sorry I wasn’t able to see your perspective.’

or ‘I’m sorry I didn’t pay attention to your feelings.’


In the month that followed my earlier blog, I’m realizing that saying ‘I’m sorry I hurt you’ might sound like one of those easily misinterpreted finger-pointing ‘you get hurt so easily’ kinds of comments.


It can be tempting to talk about hurting the other person as if they are easily hurt.


I talked about fear of taking responsibility, and fear of being blamed or shamed. I discussed blind spots and psychological projection


Lots of times we think we are really trying to apologize but it comes off as more of a non-apology, full of rationalizations and justifications for our behavior.

In case you missed it, here's the blog:

In ‘The Case of the Missing Apology’


So lets talk some more about non-apologies

I like the Merriam-Webster definition of non-apology: 

“a disingenuous or insufficient apology: a statement that is offered as an apology but that fails to express true regret or to take responsibility for having done or said something wrong”

Apologies have always been hard for me yet with practice they have become doable. A recognition that helps me a lot is to not try to use words that are uncomfortable for me – I tend to sound insincere when I do.


So what constitutes a sincere apology?

It is generally suggested that a sincere apology contains some form of:

recognition, responsibility, remorse/regret, restitution when appropriate, and repetition prevention


The book Sorry, Sorry, Sorry: The Case for Good Apologies offers six (and a half) steps to great apologies. They are:

1. Say you're sorry. Not that you "regret," not that you are "devastated." Just say you're "sorry."

2. Say what it is that you're apologizing for. Be specific.

3, Show you understand why it was bad, take ownership, and show that you understand why you caused hurt.

4. Don't make excuses.

5. Say why it won't happen again. What steps are you taking?

6. If it's relevant, make reparations: "I'm going to pay for the dry cleaning. Just send the bill to me. I'm going to do my best to fix what I did."


And from Harvard Health Publishing:  

The Art of a Heartfelt Apology

- Acknowledge the offense. Take responsibility for the offense, whether it was a physical or psychological harm, and confirm that your behavior was not acceptable. Avoid using vague or evasive language, or wording an apology in a way that minimizes the offense or questions whether the victim was really hurt.

- Explain what happened. The challenge here is to explain how the offense occurred without excusing it. In fact, sometimes the best strategy is to say there is no excuse.

- Express remorse. If you regret the error or feel ashamed or humiliated, say so: this is all part of expressing sincere remorse.

- Offer to make amends. For example, if you have damaged someone’s property, have it repaired or replace it. When the offense has hurt someone’s feelings, acknowledge the pain and promise to try to be more sensitive in the future.


And it's important to acknowledge that what you said or did has hurtful behavior however we have to be wary of painting the person you are apologizing to as someone who is too sensitive and easily hurt.

I believe one reason many of us hold back from offering a sincere apology is our fear of feeling vulnerable – such a scary feeling. It helps me a lot to distinguish between feeling vulnerable and allowing vulnerability. I remind myself of this difference often – it has been a game-changer for me in making apologies.

© Elayne Savage PhD


Would love to have a dialogue with you and hear your feelings about apologies.

Until next month, 


Elayne Savage is the author of ground-breaking relationship books published in 9 languages.
Both books are now available on Kindle!



You can reprint any blog from 'Tips from The Queen of Rejection'® as long as you include an attribution and, whenever possible, a live link to my website. And I'd really appreciate if you'd notify me where and when the material will appear.

The attribution should include this information:

Elayne Savage, PhD is a communication coach, keynote speaker, and trainer, practicing psychotherapist and author of Don't Take It Personally! The Art of Dealing with Rejection and Breathing Room - Creating Space to Be a Couple.

To find out more about my speaking programs, coaching and consultation services visit: // or call 510-540-6230 if you or your group can benefit.

Contacting Elayne
I welcome your feedback as well as suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this e-letter.
Here's how you can reach me:

[email protected]

For more communication and rejection tips, you can follow me:

August 31, 2023

January 31, 2023

September 30, 2021

June 30, 2021

August 31, 2020

July 31, 2020

April 30, 2019

July 30, 2018

March 31, 2018

February 28, 2017