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In my mind, there’s a difference between an apology and saying you’re sorry. An apology is sincere, saying sorry is not. The words “I’m sorry” can definitely be included in an apology, but a genuine apology is more than just two words. Saying sorry isn’t always something that comes from the heart. “Sorry” can be a cover-up to resolve an issue in a quick way so somebody else forgives you quicker. 

To put this into perspective, let’s go back to a classic argument I’m sure we’ve all had at some point. Your best friend makes a mistake and it upsets you. Classic fight - she ignores you and acts like you are the one who made a mistake. We’ve all been there (at least I have, too many times). Since you don’t like fighting with anyone, you apologize for whatever you did (which was probably nothing). She forgives you (again, for nothing) and you both move on. I’ve let this happen too many times with too many different people. If you’re anything like me, you hate this cycle but continue to say sorry because it causes less conflict.

But what if you didn’t say sorry? Would anything change? Would they eventually apologize to you? I ask myself these questions. These questions have helped me stop myself from saying sorry when I don’t mean it. 

I got tired of being the one to apologize to friends who didn’t care about me. If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you have too. Here’s my advice: before you apologize, ask yourself if it’s genuine, or if it’s actually going to clear up your issue. One thing to keep in mind is that little arguments don’t make or break relationships. But repetitive issues that don’t seem to change can break a relationship.

Questions to ask yourself:

Is your apology sincere?

Somebody that values you as a friend will know when to apologize to you. They should also know when your apology is not necessary. A real friend or partner won't wait for you to apologize to resolve an issue. Somebody that's worth your time will put you before themselves, even if that means they risk their own pride by apologizing.

Is your apology going to resolve the issue long-term?

Is your apology going to put an issue on the back burner until a similar argument presents itself and the same issue comes up again? Establish personal boundaries. This could be as simple as not putting up with fake apologies from friends or more complex like giving your significant other a number of chances before you remove them from your life. Boundaries are necessary for any and all relationships.

Put yourself in their shoes. Did you do anything that could have hurt them?

Before you apologize, make sure you put yourself in the other person’s shoes. No matter what the situation is, there are two sides to every story. Arguments happen between more than one person. Although you may not have done anything wrong, putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes will give you a different perspective. Being mature enough to see that, oh yeah, I guess I did say something I shouldn’t have and I feel like I need to apologize for that. 

Do you have an exact reason to apologize?

Don’t let them get away thinking you apologized for everything. Establishing exactly what you’re apologizing for allows you to set boundaries for future conversations. By specifically saying what you're apologizing for, you're giving the other person a chance to do the same. This makes it seem less like you're taking the blame, and more like you're outlining what was done. This provokes conversation that can help to solve similar issues in the future.

Is apologizing in your best interest? 

If an apology isn’t in your best interest, it’s likely in theirs. You and your mental health come first. Toxic relationships don’t belong in your life, so don’t let them take advantage of your time. You deserve more than a friend or significant other who lets their pride get in the way of their sincerity to you and your relationship.

Don’t say sorry.

If you can go through the questions above and say “no” to all of them, don’t say sorry. You, your mental health, and your relationships are the priority of your life. As cliche as it sounds, do what is ultimately going to make you the happiest. Think long term, short term, or whatever you need to do what is best for you. The best part about not apologizing, you can always apologize at a later time. But from now on, don’t waste your time saying sorry if it isn’t really an apology!

Tatiana is a junior studying Journalism and Mass Communication, Sustainability, and Psychology at the University of Iowa. Tatiana hopes to work in a big city as a social media marketer in environmental communication or an editorial writer.
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