9 Ways to Spot an Fake Apology
Life Style

9 Ways to Spot an Fake Apology


An apology is an expression of regret for a behaviour or an action that might have hurt or offended another person. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines apology as “the act of declaring one’s regret, remorse, or sorrow for having insulted, failed, injured, harmed or wronged another”. Such an act might seem small or even unimportant to some, but to acknowledge one’s mistakes and to accept responsibility for one’s actions through not only words but also through changed behaviour is crucial in any form of relationship, be it personal or professional.

Many times we don’t receive the apologies that we deserve. However, occasionally we do receive one, but something doesn’t feel quite right. No amount of forgiveness and understanding makes things right, even if we accept it wholeheartedly. 

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So what is it that needs to be taken care of while handling an apology? Here we will discuss some effective ways to spot a non genuine apology. 

1. Forceful 

A fake apology might seem forceful in the sense that it might imply a sense of urgency as if the apologiser is eager to move past the issue without genuinely acknowledging their wrongdoing or the hurt they’ve caused. For instance, someone may hastily say, “Okay, I’ll apologise. Let’s just get over it,” without taking the time to understand the impact of their action.

2. Putting Blame on Others

This is very subtle but can spiral into gaslighting and manipulation. A friend might say they are sorry that “you” feel this way. An add on statement could be, “I knew you are too sensitive. I should have acted better”, shifting the focus away from their behaviour and onto the other person’s perceived shortcomings. This form of apology not only fails to acknowledge the hurt caused but also undermines the other person’s feelings and experiences, resulting in emotional discomfort.

3. Downplaying

It involves dismissing the feelings of the person who was hurt, and can be felt as minimisation of the circumstance. People often downplay other’s emotions and make it look like it wasn’t even that of a big deal. For example, “although I don’t think I have done anything wrong, if something still hurts you, I am ready to apologise”. It trivialises the other person by making it seem like the hurt wasn’t a big deal, and the apologiser avoids confronting the consequences of their actions.

Read More: “I am Sorry!”, Why do People Over-apologize?

4. One Sided Conversation

Any conversation, including conflict resolutions, should not be one sided where one party dominates the dialogue without giving the other person a chance to express their thoughts and feelings, which can signal insincerity. It takes a good amount of learning to strike a balance between making oneself heard, and giving others their space to speak their heart and mind. If someone is bad at listening, and keeps on sharing their views during difficult conversations, it is evidently not a genuine apology!

Read More; How to deal with a Conflict?  

5. Overjustification

A fake apology can be evident if a person exaggerates or over-justifies the reason for their behaviour. It can possibly make the convo one sided, which is again a red sign. If someone truly holds oneself accountable for the wrongdoing, the apology is marked with regret or even guilt sometimes. In such instances, where fake apologies often involve defensiveness and excuses, authentic ones will not tend to defend or over justify but rather stick to the concise and sincere statements made, allowing for genuine communication and understanding.

6. Lack of Empathy

Empathy simply means to put oneself into another person’s shoes and understand things from their perspective. Individuals are more focused on how to present themselves in a convincing manner rather than genuinely understanding and addressing the hurt they’ve caused. They may offer superficial apologies devoid of true empathy, leaving the other person feeling unheard and invalidated.

7. Role of Body Language

Nonverbal cues say a lot about a person. In order to spot a fake apology, one can try knowing more about body language. Irregular eye contact, unmatched expressions, and hand gestures can easily indicate someone lying. One of the famous researches titled ‘Cues to Deception” talks about “leakage” where nonverbal cues contradict the verbal statements. When someone pretends to be sorry, their words and body language may not line up. As an indication of discomfort or dishonesty, they can, for example, avoid maintaining eye contact. This inconsistency between their actions and words may be a sign that their apology isn’t a true one.

Read More: How does your Body language reveal Emotions?

8. Unchanged Behaviour

An apology, if not followed by changed behaviour, remains incomplete and lacks sincerity. While regret and remorse are essential components of an apology, they must be accompanied by tangible actions to demonstrate genuine accountability and a commitment to improvement. Continuously exhibiting the same harmful behaviour despite offering apologies— makes no difference. Without assuming complete accountability and actively working to improve behaviour, apologies remain hollow and fail to repair the damage caused by hurtful actions. It’s essential for individuals to align their words with their actions and take meaningful steps towards growth and improvement to truly make amends for their past mistakes.

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9. Requesting Forgiveness

An honest and sincere apology is marked by a request of forgiveness. However, in a fake apology, the apologiser may avoid asking for forgiveness altogether. This omission allows them to sidestep accountability for their actions. Sincere apologies emphasise asking for forgiveness for regaining trust, while false apologies disregard this critical element. 

An example could be: “I deeply regret my actions and the pain they have caused you. I understand that I have hurt you, and I take full responsibility for my behaviour. I wanted you to know that I am genuinely sorry, and I humbly ask for your forgiveness. I want to make things right and earn back your trust.” This example suggests the essence of a genuine apology, where the person humbly asks for forgiveness, takes full responsibility for their actions, and expresses a sincere commitment to making amends and rebuilding trust.

Read More: Forgiveness – The Golden Virtue 

In conclusion, handling apologies may be challenging as it takes keen observation and understanding of human behaviour to distinguish between true and false expressions. The nine methods listed above highlight the significance of authenticity, responsibility, and empathy in offering guidance on identifying false apologies. It’s important to remember that an apology consists of acts as well as words, and that these acts should demonstrate a sincere wish to mend fences and promote understanding. Thus, we may develop more true and healthy relationships based on mutual respect and trust by encouraging open communication, sincere regret, and a desire to listen and understand.

References +
  • Lee, B. Y. (2023, October). 8 ways to spot a fake apology. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/a-funny-bone-to-pick/202310/8-ways-to-spot-a-fake-apology 
  • DePaulo, Bella & Lindsay, James J & Malone, Brian & Muhlenbruck, Laura & Charlton, Kelly & Cooper, Harris. (2003). Cues to Deception. Psychological bulletin. 129. 74-118. 10.1037/0033-2909.129.1.74.
  • Chapman, G., & Thomas, J. (2006). The Five Languages of Apology (pp. 91-194). Northfield Publishing.

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