Fake Apologies

You’ve heard of fake news. Well there are also fake apologies. We shouldn’t be surprised that students can by cynical about apologies. They may wonder what’s in it for them. Teacher Rosalind Wiseman says, “They witness ‘fake’ apologies amongst their peers and see adults who treat them disrespectfully, abuse their power and who would never think to apologize.”1 It’s not hard to realize how challenging it is to convince students that apologies are not just superficial gestures. “So, if we want to talk to them about the power of a genuine apology to transform relationships, we have to acknowledge and define fake apologies.”1

Wiseman says that a fake apology has four aspects.

  1. “Has an insincere tone of voice, sometimes accompanied by body language, like sighing and eye-rolling, to further communicate their true feelings.
  2. Tries to make the other person feel weak for wanting the apology. For example, ‘If you really feel that strongly about it, then fine, I’m sorry’ or ‘I apologize if I offended you,’ or ‘I wouldn’t have cared if it happened to me.’
  3. Manipulates the person apologized to, usually in order to get something the apologizer wants. For example, ‘I’m sorry, can you please just drop it? If you tell x teacher, I’m going to…’
  4. Talks about themselves and how they’ve been affected by the situation and doesn’t take responsibility for their behavior.”1

When working with students these aspects should be keys to a false or insincere apology is taking place.


  1. The Power of Real Apologies in a Fake Apology World, Rosalind Wiseman, Rosalind’s Classroom Conversations, June 2014 https://www.adl.org/education/resources/tools-and-strategies/classroom-conversations/the-power-of-real-apologies-in-a-fake-apology-world
  2. Image: Logo-sorry-not-sorry-demi-lovato [commons.wikimedia.org]

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