11 Examples Of Insincere Or Fake Apologies

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woman looking skeptical hugging someone who gave her a fake apology

Sincere communication is an important part of any relationship, whether it's romantic or platonic. And whether you need to give or receive an apology, knowing how to apologize is vital.

Apologizing can renew trust, soothe hurt feelings, and return the lifeblood to a damaged relationship. But when someone hurts you and gives you a fake or insincere apology, it only makes things worse.

So how can you be certain that an apology is sincere and will help mend the wound or miscommunication?

RELATED: How To Be Truly Terrible At Apologizing

11 examples of insincere or fake apologies

1. "I'm sorry if..."

This is a conditional apology. It falls short of a full apology by suggesting only that something "might" have happened.


  • I'm sorry if I did anything wrong.
  • I'm sorry if you were offended.

2. "I'm sorry that you..."

This is a blame-shifting apology. It's no apology at all. Rather, it puts the blame on you as the problem not apologizing for their behavior.


  • I'm sorry you felt hurt.
  • I'm sorry you think I did something wrong.
  • I'm sorry you feel I'm so bad.

3. "I'm sorry, but..."

This excuse-making apology does nothing to heal the wounds caused.


  • I'm sorry, but most other people wouldn’t have overreacted like you did.
  • I'm sorry, but other people thought it was funny.
  • I'm sorry, but you started it.
  • I'm sorry, but I couldn’t help it.
  • I'm sorry, but there was truth to what I said.
  • I'm sorry, but you can’t expect perfection.

RELATED: Do You Apologize Too Much? What You Need To Know About Saying Sorry

4. "I was just..."

This is a justifying apology. It seeks to argue that the hurtful behavior was OK because it was harmless or for a good cause, which just shows that they are a manipulator.


  • I was just kidding.
  • I was just trying to help.
  • I was only trying to calm you down.
  • I was trying to get you to see the other side.
  • I was just playing devil’s advocate.

5. "I've already said/done..."

This deja-vu apology cheapens whatever is said by implying that there is nothing left to apologize for.


  • I already said I was sorry.
  • I've already apologized for that a million times.

6. "I regret..."

This sidestepping apology equates regret with apologizing. There is no ownership of their part in the situation.


  • I regret you felt upset
  • I regret that mistakes were made

7. "I know I..." or "You know I..."

This whitewashing apology is an effort to minimize what happened without owning any hurtful effects on you or others. It may seem self-effacing but on its own, it contains no apology. In doing this, they try to talk you out of your feelings or imply that you shouldn’t be upset.


  • I know I shouldn’t have done that.
  • I know I probably should have asked you first.
  • I know I can be a bull in a china shop sometimes.
  • You know I'm sorry.
  • You know I didn’t mean that.
  • You know I'd never hurt you.

RELATED: 5 Scientific Reasons Men (Pretty Much) Never Say 'I'm Sorry'

8. "I'll apologize if..."

This pay-to-play apology is not a clean, freely offered apology. Rather, you have to pay to get it.


  • I'll only apologize if you apologize for what you did too.
  • I'll apologize if you agree never to bring it up again.
  • I'll say I'm sorry if you promise you'll stop talking about it.

9. "I guess..."

This is a phantom apology. It hints at the need for an apology but never gives one.


  • I guess I owe you an apology.
  • I guess I should say I'm sorry.

10. "So-and-so told me to apologize."

This is a not-my-apology apology. The person is saying he or she is apologizing only because someone else suggested it. The implication is that it would have never happened otherwise.


  • Your mother told me to apologize to you.
  • My friend said I should tell you I'm sorry.

11. “Fine. I’m sorry, OK?!”

This is a bullying apology. Either in words or tone, you are given a grudging “I’m sorry,” but it doesn’t feel like an apology. It may even feel like a threat.


  • OK, enough already. I said I'm sorry!
  • Give me a break, I'm sorry, all right?

RELATED: 13 Signs You Hurt Your Partner’s Feelings And How To Make Things Right

A true apology, by contrast, has most or all of the following characteristics:

  • It is offered freely offered without conditions or minimizing what was done.
  • Conveys that the person apologizing understands and cares about the hurt person’s experience and feelings.
  • Conveys remorse.
  • Offers a commitment to avoid repeating hurtful behavior.
  • Offers to make amends or provide restitution if appropriate.

An authentic apology starts with listening.

If you seek to apologize, you first need to hear what happened from the other person's point of view and how it affected them.

As therapist and author Harriet Lerner writes, “No apology will have meaning if we haven’t listened carefully to the hurt party’s anger and pain. More than anything, the hurt party needs to know that we really ‘get it,’ that our empathy and remorse are genuine, that their feelings make sense, that we will carry some of the pain we’ve caused, and that we will do our best to make sure there’s no repeat performance.”

People issue faux apologies for several reasons.

They may not believe they did anything wrong or just want to keep the peace. They may feel embarrassed and want to avoid their feelings. They may feel shame about their actions, but feel unable or unwilling to confront their shame.

People who consistently fail to apologize may lack empathy or have low self-esteem or a personality disorder.

Whether you're the one apologizing or the one receiving one, make certain any apology you offer is sincere and well-intentioned in order to minimize hurt and help heal the wound.

RELATED: How To Apologize To Someone You Love So They Know You Mean It Sincerely

Dan Neuharth, Ph.D., is a licensed marriage and family therapist, who specializes in marriage and couples counseling, and individual psychotherapy.

This article was originally published at PsychCentral. Reprinted with permission from the author.