I am cleaning out my house for a major life change, and flipped through a large stash of mail. Magically, I stumbled across this piece of work, aka: one of the most grandiose, non-apology letters I’ve ever gotten.
Note it is on paper. It was delivered courtesy of US Post Office. Though I won’t reveal which year this was written, it was sent in the last 10 years of the 21st century: an era in which people send text messages, emails, and make phone calls (not send paper letters), as evidenced by that first sentence (“thank you for your text message expressing your desire to see me”).
What I love about this non-apology is that it is completely couched in positive-sounding words. It’s beautiful in that regard. So, without further ado…. let’s learn from the best and learn how to write the “fake apology”!
Part 1: Avoid proactively repairing the relationship. Be passive so as to avoid the situation.
This letter exemplifies this a few respects–
- it is a letter sent through the post office, as opposed to a phone call or text message
- it uses the phrase, “I am open to [hanging out],” as opposed to “Wow, I’m so glad you still want to be my friend. I’m going to call you.”
- it avoids making a plan in any way
Part 2: Instead of apologizing for your crappy behavior, apologize for the other person’s reaction! This is a grand maneuver because it superficially looks like an apology. But instead, it excuses you from responsibility and places blame on the OTHER PERSON — for misunderstanding how virtuous and awesome YOU are.
Notice the writer of this letter said, “I want to apologize for hurting you.” It sounds like an apology! But adding, “That was not my intention” actually implies the other person is at fault for feeling hurt. Here are some grown-ass phrases this person could have used instead…
~ “I want to apologize for not doing my part in our friendship.”
~ “I want to apologize for failing to recognize you as a human being.”
~ “I want to apologize for failing to appreciate all that you’ve given me.”
~ “I want to apologize for taking and not giving back.”
But we are not going for responsibility or adulthood! We are going for immaturity. Using this letter, let’s put this in practice–
Friend – “Elisa, why did you destroy my car and tell everyone I’d gotten penile-enlargement surgery? I thought I could trust you with my secrets and you backstabbed me.”
Me- “I want to apologize for hurting you. That was not my intention.”
I am not apologizing for my actions! I am apologizing on behalf of the OTHER person, because really, they should not feel so hurt. Hammer home their idiocy over your inherent virtue with the sentence, “That was not my intention”!
Bonus! Add a sentence inside your head to remind yourself of your untouchable ego: “That was not my intention…. in fact, my intention was to help you….. if only you weren’t so dense at recognizing that, you wouldn’t have gotten mad.”
Part 3: Take a superior position to that of the reader, instead of a humble one.
Repeat after me: “Your feelings are always valid, and real.”
Right, right, let’s gloss over the obvious: The person you’re fake-apologizing to doesn’t need some douchebag (aka: you, by the time you’re done writing your fake apology) to validate their feelings. They know their feelings are valid. They know their feelings are real. They need you to take responsibility for this and proactively make amends (remember– do not do these things! you are going for a fake apology!).
But doesn’t that sentence sound so…. professional? So…. understanding? It is a perfect non-statement disguised as understanding.
Let’s put this into practice–
Friend – “Yo, Elisa…. you turned that report in late, which caused us $5,000 in late fees. Then we all had to stay late and work all weekend because you said you’d do something you didn’t. We’re angry at you.”
Me– “I understand why you would feel that way. Your feelings are always valid, and real.”
See how I sound so understanding, without acknowledging that I’ve done anything wrong? I do not offer to repay late fees, work late for my colleagues, nor do I under any circumstance apologize for turning in that late report!
Bonus Points: Remind yourself how saint-like you are by secretly adding an ego-boosting addendum inside your head to the phrase, “Your feelings are always valid, and real….” For example: “Your feelings are always valid, and real….. even if I happen to think they are stupid and irrational.”
Double Bonus Points: Tell the person you’re fake-apologizing to what they deserve! “You deserve to have a great trip,” or, “You deserve to have a great life.”
It’s a fantastic send-off, sounds positive, and essentially washes your hands of them forever.
After all, why should you keep anyone around who doesn’t acknowledge how you are inherently a good person? Being “good” precludes you from doing anything hurtful, ever.
You don’t need that type of negativity in your life from people who feel (*shudder*) hurt by you! You are good. You are virtuous. Therefore, anyone who feels hurt because of your actions….. just doesn’t get you…..
Sure, it might get tiring, being surrounded by smiling people who only see your goodness…….. but that’s the trade-off for being you.
And if this is not you? Why, welcome to the club of imperfection, where we stumble, make mistakes, take responsibility, make amends, apologize, and try to become better people.
It’s tougher on this side, at first, but — you’re in good company.
PS: BUT WAIT! What if you don’t want to fake apologize? What if you want to REALLY apologize? Here are the 3 simple steps to a better apology.