A few years ago, getting someone to say sorry was like squeezing water from a rock. Now people are sipping on crystal-infused water for calm, and we’re living in the age of “I’m sorry you felt that way.”
So, with sorry being thrown around all over the place, how do you distinguish the genuine ones from the half-hearted statements. What happened to the good ole times when apologies could build bridges and mend relationships?
Even when an apology comes from a good place, sometimes anger is still there. Want to figure out why? From, getting over *that* kind of apology to exploring where your anger comes from, here’s everything you need to know.
If there’s ever a time to use the cliché “Actions speak louder than words,” it’s with apologies. Someone can apologize until they’re blue in the face but if you’re noticing it’s not backed up by their actions moving forward? It’s meaningless.
“Sometimes, apologies aren’t legit,” Aimee Daramus, Psy.D, tells Greatist. “If their actions don’t back up the apology, you still have some work to do, to set boundaries and tell the person what real changes you need.”
Or maybe you find yourself angry after an apology because that’s the way they gave their apology: angrily.
“We are responsive to each other’s energy. Apologies given in anger or frustration are often met with the same emotional tone in response,” relationship expert and sex therapist, Shadeen Francis, tells Greatist.
If you’re still reeling after a sorry, ask yourself: Does this person use sorry as an escape? Have they said sorry before, only to not change a thing?
A good apology that comes from a genuine place should:
- acknowledge why you were hurt
- take ownership of their actions
- accept the blame instead of placing it on you
- doesn’t take an accusatory stance
- isn’t conditional
- won’t make you feel worse about yourself
Maybe they did apologize properly and changed their actions, yet you still feel angry. In that case, maybe what’s bothering you isn’t the issue apologized for. It could be a much bigger, pent-up problem.
In fact, your anger may not stem from them at all. “Did they accidentally trigger something from the past, or is it a pet peeve of yours?” Daramus says. If they simply acted different than you would have in their situation, she suggests that your problem may be with you not them.
In fact, your frustration might come from a deeply ingrained issue that requires time to deal with and process.
“Anger can also mask depression or trauma, especially if it’s hard for you to express your emotions,” Daramus says. “If you’re angry all the time, even over little stuff, consider talking to a therapist to see what else might be going on.”
Each person processes feelings at their own pace, and you may just need more time. “For some, apologies are symbolic and meaningful enough that they allow a person’s anger to shift. For others, anger takes longer to shift. Sometimes people need time to process the apology before their anger decreases,” Madison McCullough, a therapist and LCSW, tells Greatist.
At the same time, your anger may be coming from a place of pain. Though the person has apologized properly, you may have forgiven but not yet forgotten how they made you feel.
“Listen to the need that underlies your feelings: what is it telling you? The message of anger is about protection from pain,” Francis says.
Allowing yourself to feel said pain can be incredibly scary, but often it’s the only way to truly move on from your anger.
“Quite often we get angry when we have been hurt,” Shadeen continues. “It is worth honoring that. It may feel like too vulnerable a position, but acknowledging how you were hurt also helps you heal and release the part of yourself that is using anger for protection.”
Whether it’s moving on from the situation or the person, an apology needs to be processed for anger to fully dissipate. Processing an apology may mean finally accepting it or acknowledging that you can’t.
“If it’s someone else’s problem, set your boundaries, thank them for the apology, and let them know what action you need from them. If they don’t do it, impose some consequences,” Daramus suggests.
“If nothing else, let them know that they can only count on you if you can count on them, and you might not be there to help next time they need you. Then don’t talk about it anymore, just do it. Save your time for people who respect it.”
However, before you break off ties (unless it’s a very cut and dry situation), Daramus recommends giving the other person a chance to share their point of view.
McCullough seconds that sentiment: “Clear communication is always a healthy way to navigate through anger. Often, anger is trying to tell us something. If you can figure out what the anger is trying to tell you, you can communicate what you might need to another person that goes beyond an apology.”
Then, as hard as it is, really evaluate whether you’re making the issue into something bigger than it is. You’re completely in the right to feel as hurt and angry as you are. This is just about taking a step back and looking at how you feel and why.
“Questioning your irrational beliefs is [good]. ‘People should never be late.’ Not realistic. ‘He should always have time for me.’ Probably not. If there’s an ‘always” or “never,’ it’s probably not realistic. Expecting people to do their best most of the time is realistic. Expecting perfection is not,” Daramus says.
It’s completely valid to be angry even after someone says sorry. Don’t let anyone guilt you into thinking anger isn’t acceptable.
“Anger is a deeply stigmatized emotion, so often people feel afraid of or overwhelmed by their own anger. Anger is not inherently bad; it’s powerful emotional energy. And it does not necessitate negative outcomes,” McCullough says.
“If you think about anger as strong emotional energy, you can think about ways to channel that energy into things that will make you feel better,” she says. “Maybe that’s screaming into a pillow. Maybe that’s writing in a journal. Maybe that’s going to an intense exercise class. Think about ways to harness that emotional energy for your own benefit.”
You don’t have to get over it for anyone else except yourself. Feel how you feel and then, when you’re ready, move on for you.
Sarah Fielding is a New York City-based writer. She covers social justice, mental health, health, travel, relationships, entertainment, fashion, and food.