Your Life: A bad apology is worse than no apology

Charlotte Lankard: An apology can be as damaging as it is healing if not delivered the right way.
BY CHARLOTTE LANKARD Published: February 25, 2013

The Contingent Apology: “I'm sorry if I've done something wrong.” Used when you don't know what you've done wrong — or you don't care — and you simply want to appease a person.

The Too-Late Apology: “I realize now that what I did was wrong.” An expression of regret that often comes days, months or years too late.

The Bully Apology: “Sorry to dump this report on you at 5 p.m.” Entirely insincere, tendered only to manipulate the recipient into some action or to serve as a band-aid on bad behavior.

Both Pausch and Bernstein believed an insincere apology is insulting while a sincere apology can strengthen relationships and heal wounds.

So what is a good apology?

I'm sorry. It was my fault. What can I do to make it right?

Charlotte Lankard is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Contact her at

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