I think everyone knows someone that never apologizes. Ever! They just won’t say I’m sorry, even when they know they are wrong, they simply cannot and will not apologize. I wonder how that person manages to go through life without ever having to give an apology. Don’t we sort of start learning that when we are toddlers? The adults in our lives instruct us to “Tell your brother you’re sorry for taking his toy” or “Say I’m sorry to your sister for eating her candy”–that sort of thing. So we do sort of learn to apologize even before we have a full grasp of the meaning of an apology.
Apparently though not all people learn this lesson. I know one such person, well I probably know a few of these unapologetic types but one person comes to mind. I have noticed that this man spends a lot of time and energy always appearing to say and do the “right” thing, but I don’t think it’s because he’s trying to be a good person so much as he’s just working very hard at ensuring he never has to apologize for anything. Even when he is wrong…dead to rights wrong…he will never apologize.
“Apologizing doesn’t always mean that you were wrong and the other person was right, but it does show the other person you value the relationship more than your pride”.
I actually find it annoying that this guy never apologies because he is really far from perfect. As I’ve gotten older I have realized the value of an apology. Even when I’ve done nothing wrong, it isn’t hard to say I’m sorry. As in, I’m sorry you’re having a bad day; I’m sorry you feel that way; I’m sorry things didn’t work out the way you planned, and so on.
Interestingly, this man also does not accept apologies. If you’ve done or said something wrong and try to apologize, tell him that “I didn’t mean to say that or I’m sorry I forgot to do that”, etc., he acts as if he just doesn’t believe that apology. He’s one of those that won’t accept an apology. Sure, we all know it isn’t a requirement to accept someone’s apology but I think that says more about them than you if they don’t accept it. Naturally, we can doubt the apology if they keep doing the same thing over and over…bad behavior for instance after apologizing for it would give evidence of a lack of sincerity. I have pondered this question often over the past few years, especially concerning this one person. I went looking to Google for possible reasons or an explanation…below is an article I found interesting.
5 Reasons Why Some People Will Never Apologize
It’s not just stubbornness. There’s something deeper at play.
Elton John wasn’t kidding: Sorry seems to be the hardest word. Some people find it so hard to apologize that getting them to admit to even the smallest wrongdoing involves a major battle—and often a fruitless one. Although we might perceive the reluctance of these non-apologists as simple defensiveness or pride, often a far deeper psychological dynamic is at play: Refusing to apologize often reflects efforts to protect a fragile sense of self.
Apologies can vary greatly in their significance. When non-apologists bump into someone in a crowd, they might mumble a quick “I’m sorry” without giving it another thought. But the same person arguing about with their spouse about directions might yell, “I’m telling you the GPS is wrong, take this left!” only to find out the satellite system was correct—and still adamantly refuse to apologize, perhaps calling on excuses such as, “You take the wrong exit all the time, too!” or “That GPS is wrong half the time anyway—it’s not my fault!”
Similarly, when our actions or inactions cause someone actual harm, real emotional distress, or significant inconvenience, most of us quickly offer a sincere apology, both because it is deserved and because it’s the best way to garner forgiveness and alleviate the guilt we feel. But in these situations, too, non-apologists typically use excuses and denial to shirk their responsibility. Why?
Why Apologies Threaten Non-Apologists
For non-apologists, saying “I’m sorry” carries psychological ramifications that run far deeper than the words themselves imply; it elicits fundamental fears (either conscious or unconscious) they desperately want to avoid:
- Admissions of wrong doing are incredibly threatening for non-apologists because they have trouble separating their actions from their character. If they did something bad, they must be bad people; if they were neglectful, they must be fundamentally selfish and uncaring; if they were wrong, they must be ignorant or stupid, etc. Therefore, apologies represent a major threat to their basic sense of identity and self-esteem.
- Apologizing might open the door to guilt for most of us, but for non-apologists, it can open the door instead to shame. While guilt makes us feel bad about our actions, shame makes them feel bad about their selves—who they are—which makes shame a far more toxic emotion than guilt.
- While most of us consider apologies as opportunities to resolve interpersonal conflict, non-apologists may fear their apology will only open the floodgates to further accusations and conflict. Once they admit to one wrongdoing, surely the other person will pounce on the opportunity to pile on all the previous offenses for which they refused to apologize as well.
- Non-apologists fear that by apologizing, they would assume full responsibility and relieve the other party of any culpability—if arguing with a spouse, for example, they might fear an apology would exempt the spouse from taking any blame for a disagreement, despite the fact that each member of a couple has at least some responsibility in most arguments.
- By refusing to apologize, non-apologists are trying to manage their emotions. They are often comfortable with anger, irritability, and emotional distance, and experience emotional closeness and vulnerability to be extremely threatening. They fear that lowering their guard even slightly will make their psychological defenses crumble and open the floodgates to a well of sadness and despair that will pour out of them, leaving them powerless to stop it. They might be correct. However, they are incorrect in assuming that exhibiting these deep and pent-up emotions (as long as they get support, love, and caring when they do—which fortunately, is often the case), will be traumatic and damaging. Opening up in such a way is often incredibly therapeutic and empowering, and it can lead them to experience far deeper emotional closeness and trust toward the other person, significantly deepening their relationship satisfaction. Published on May 29, 2013 by Guy Winch, Ph.D. in The Squeaky Wheel
Yup, that #4 sounds like this guy I know and #5 sounds like him too. I wouldn’t call him an anger ball necessarily but I am familiar with the sense of having to occasionally “walk on eggshells” around him so as not to make him mad. I can say for certain he is more comfortable with emotional distance rather than closeness. But that does seem sort of a sad and lonely way to live doesn’t it?
Now I suppose there are SOME things a person can say or do that an apology just won’t fix. Oops! I’m sorry may never be sufficient for crimes against people, child abuse or rape and murder, etc., but it sure would help the victims, maybe. It can’t hurt can it? After all during sentencing of criminals the family members of the victim gets to deliver an “impact statement”. Often the victims and/or their friends and family members remark that the convicted showed no remorse, he didn’t even say he was sorry!
In this society, people are often angry, irritable, even self-centered…but at times a very simple, quick and sincere apology can actually brighten one’s day. For instance, imagine you are racing to work, running late and someone cuts you off, if they apologized for it, maybe that would be enough to prevent that road rage demon from rearing its ugly and dangerous head. Or you’re really craving a freshly brewed cup of coffee while you are on a road trip, you arrive at the convenience store and they have just run out of coffee, they can make a new pot, but I’m sorry it’ll be about 15 minutes. Would that make a difference to you and your mood? Probably.
Does anyone else have a non-apologetic person in their life?