Sorry Not Sorry: How to Non-Apologize


Being called out on your shit is the worst. It can be humiliating, frustrating, and hurtful. When it happens, the natural reaction is often to be dismissive, defensive, or to complain that the other party just “doesn’t get it/you/jokes”. I say, go with that feeling. Because if lots of people are telling you that you’re dead wrong, you definitely don’t want to stop and examine why that is. It’s like my dad says, “Sorry if you don’t like hearing the truth, but women just can’t drive!”

If you want to issue an effective non-apology, it’s not that hard. Actually, it’s the easiest and fastest thing to do in a difficult situation. Like Robert Frost said*, fuck a road less traveled — let’s take the easy way out!

Since authentic apologies are direct, specific, and truthful, your non-apology should be obscure, unclear, and completely miss the point.

1. Quick tip: if “sorry” is immediately followed by the word “if”, “you”, or “you’re”, then you are most likely not apologizing.

  • Sorry if I hurt your feelings.
  • Sorry you’re offended.
  • Sorry you didn’t get the joke.
  • Sorry if you were disturbed.
  • Sorry you’re upset
  • Sorry your ass got in the way of my hand.

All great!

2. Shortcut for the above — always start your non-apology with “Sorry if you’re offended by TKTKTK,” or “We had no intentions of offending you but if you are TKTKTK.” Peter Sagan really nailed this one on Sunday after he was photographed grabbing a woman’s ass. In response to the public disgust, he tweeted:

Ladies and gentlemen (mainly gentlemen), that is how it’s done!

3. To that point, if you’re a man, and a bunch of women are telling you that you said something sexist, definitely ignore them. If a woman is trying to help you understand her experience in this sexist culture, it makes absolutely no sense to listen. Same goes with white people listening to people of color, straight people listening to LGBTQ people, etc.

4. Pay no mind to the other person’s feelings and concerns, because fuck those idiots; they just don’t understand you. Stand by what you said, even if it’s idiotic racial slurs. You MEANT no disrespect, and you can’t help it if they took some.

5. Even if you decide to try to rectify a situation, make sure everyone knows you’re not doing it because you actually screwed up — blame it on someone else being overly sensitive. For example, when Snickers took down their shitty homophobic ad, they didn’t do it because it was shitty and homophobic, but because — even though most people loved it! — it offended a few folks.

6. It’s obviously best to do this shit over Twitter — the less intimate the response, the easier. If it’s the digital equivalent of sticking a post-it note on someone’s Trapper Keeper, you’re good to go.

7. An apology expresses regret, but it’s also communicating to the other person: I hear you, I see you, and I’m gonna do better. As unsatisfying as it is when someone non-apologizes, it’s incredibly refreshing to hear a real apology. Because it’s such a unique thing, most people will forgive past indiscretions for a sincere apology and a commitment to doing better. So don’t do any of that bullshit.

8. Apologize for the wrong thing, while purposefully and willfully miss the point. We call this pulling a Rush Limbaugh — who is a very flattering person to be associated with because he’s TERRIBLE at apologies. After he called Georgetown University law student and birth control advocate Sandra Fluke a whore, he issued this glorious garbage:

My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.


9. If you remember nothing else on this list, know this: In order to best non-apologize, just say anything besides “I fucked up, and I’m sorry.” Modify your “apology” with a million disclaimers, perhaps even roll your eyes and lament about the days when a man could be a man.

If you need more inspiration for new and better ways to non-apologize, check out these excellent resources.

Just remember — show no self-awareness regarding your actions, and absolutely no real remorse. Because every day we’re learning and evolving, and most people want to do that in a way that keeps their world as small as possible, and cuts them off from satisfying communication with other human beings. It’s always more comfortable to live in your tiny bubble of disillusion than to experience the connection that happens with other humans when you’re able to reflect and grow. Good job, team! Now, let’s go kick some puppies and light a few babies on fire.

[Terrible Apologies]

*he didn’t say that.

Shutterstock/Dave Clark Digital Photo

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