Originally posted on PsychCentral by .
For many of us, “I’m sorry”, is a very common phrase we say. I know I apologize for everything to the point of where I wonder if I’m apologizing for my existence. I have never thought about the meaning of my apology, or least not that there could be 6 meanings, but as I went through the list I realized that many of my apologies are not productive and healthy apologies.
Let’s go through the list and include examples.
Apologizing to appease
In the past, there were times when I engaged in heated fights with an ex-partner. They would go on for hours with no solutions in view so I would apologize to end the fight. I’m not actually sorry, I am saying what I know is expected of me and to make the fight stop.
Apologizing on demand
Adults to this to children all the time. We are supposed to model respect for children, but we do make them apologize when they don’t want to. This doesn’t teach them respect or compassion. We are also demonstrating that their feelings about the situation don’t matter and that an apology is always required no matter what.
I do not have a specific example, but I know I have frequently made children apologizing for hurting a peer. You can hear it in their voice that they don’t want to say it and are just doing it so you’ll leave them alone and the situation can be forgotten.
Apologizing without apologizing
This is an invalidating apology and oddly enough, one that I do a lot and didn’t think was a negative type of apology. I will say to my partner, “I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings.” The word “if” can send the message that nothing bad was done from your perspective, but you’ll say sorry anyways. Regardless of what I think is wrong or right, my partners hurt is real to him and I need to be compassionate and acknowledge it.
Apologizing from guilt
I do this A LOT! I also see it as apologizing out of desperation (perhaps a combination of appease and guilt apologies?). A few weekends ago I was very mean to my partner while we were driving in the car. My mouth kept spewing poison and I eventually threw my purse at the dashboard, spilling some of the contents onto the floor. The culmination of all of my behaviours in the end left me frantic and I apologized profusely. I didn’t feel sorry; I felt bad for myself, not for the hurt I caused during my rampage.
Apologizing to be polite
Many of us probably do this on a day-to-day basis (Canadians are known for saying sorry :P). Whenever I brush by someone in public, accidentally step on the back of someone’s heel while we’re walking or any other little accidental public encounter, I politely apologise (lately I’ve stopped doing this because I just don’t care). Again, you don’t actually empathize with the person who you brushed by, you’re just being polite.
Apologizing from love
This is THE apology. It comes from a voluntary place of empathy, compassion and love. It’s the one we really mean and we want the recipient to know that we care about them. A few days after my rampage (as told in Apologizing from Guilt) I was able to apologize from love. I love my partner and I know that my actions hurt him. I wanted him to know that I know my behaviour was unacceptable, that I made him feel bad and that I am working on changing my behaviour to strength our relationship and myself. An apology from love strengths relationships and truly can mend the wrongs that may have been done.
Is there an apology type you do a lot? Do you think apologizing from love is always possible or something you can strive for?