One of the most common issues in friendship are different approaches to apologies. Namely, when one person apologizes often and the other doesn't. Why is this? And what does it mean for a friendship?
Reasons Why Someone Won't Apologize
There are many reasons why someone won't apologize, such as they:
- Believe they didn't do anything wrong.
- Are embarrassed about their behavior.
- Don't like to admit that they were wrong.
- Have underlying anger about a previous problem you two had.
- Never really learned how to apologize properly.
- Don't think the actual words "I'm sorry" are important.
- End up doing a kind act in lieu of an apology. (They'll be extra nice to you for a couple weeks instead.)
- Don't really care about the friendship that much.
Whatever the reason, the inability to take responsibility for their actions will cause harm to your friendship.
While you can overlook certain negative character traits in a friend, a failure to apologize can lead to hard feelings, an imbalance of emotional power between the two of you, and perhaps even mark the end of the friendship.
How to Confront a Friend About Their Lack of Apologies
Like any issue you're uncomfortable about in your friendship, you'll have to talk to your friend about how to resolve the inequity in saying you're sorry. You may feel hesitant to do this, because if your friend doesn't think they should apologize, perhaps they are an emotionally aggressive person all the way around.
Maybe they verbally attack back when a friend brings something up to them instead of self-reflecting on it. Maybe they have a personality that makes it difficult to discuss certain things with them. When one friend won't confront the other on this issue, they usually shy away from the friendship until there's nothing left of it.
If you don't want your friendship to end, a better response is to calmly (and in the right time and place) ask your friend to talk about this. Wait until after the argument you've just had has died down enough where you aren't so emotionally raw from it, and then say something like:
"I wanted to talk to you about what happened last week because it brought up something that I think is hurting us as friends."
"I really love our friendship and that's why I feel the need to talk to you about something."
Follow these thoughts up with whatever is appropriate to your particular situation, such as:
"I notice that when we have an argument, I apologize to you but you never actually use the words 'I'm sorry' in return. This hurts me because I feel that apologizing is important."
"During our last argument I said I was sorry and then you just said 'Okay' in response. Were you sorry too? It's important for me to hear the actual words."
Focus on what you need (such as "it's important for me to hear the words 'I'm sorry" or "I feel very bad about things when I say I'm sorry and you don't apologize for your part") rather than attacking your friend with statements like "You never apologize to me. Don't you care?" or "Why can't you ever say you're sorry?"
In other words, make sure your friend knows that the reason you're bringing this up is because it's what you need from the friendship. Perhaps your friend isn't aware of this and never realized it was a big deal. Maybe they feel differently about apologizes, and as a result didn't understand how important this was to you. Never assume that because this is an issue for you, they should automatically know they are doing anything wrong.
When Your Friend Refuses to Apologize
If, after you talk to your friend, they still won't apologize when they do something wrong, you have the option of talking to them again (it may take a couple times if your friend just doesn't get that this is important to you) or moving on from the friendship.
Basically, you need to accept that your friend won't change and decide that you still want them in your life, or you can leave the friendship. Don't make a decision to leave until you've expressed your concern to them and have given them a valid chance to make amends.
One Final Thought: Your Approach to Apologies
Finally, examine the reasons why this lack of apology is important to you. For example, if you apologize just because you expect a friend to do it in return, this could mean that your friend has failed to say they're sorry because you're trying to manipulate the situation. Saying you are sorry because you hope it will encourage your friend to do the same is not a good reason to apologize. (Here are a few others.) You should make sure you're totally self-aware in your actions before getting upset with your friend. Make sure the apologies you give are always sincere.
It's very reasonable to expect an apology when your friend hurts you. An apology that is unprompted by you signifies their desire to take responsibility so they can make an effort not to make the same mistakes again. It lets you know they are willing to do all they can to make the friendship as positive and strong as it can be.
Remember to be patient with your friend, because when you discuss this situation with them, you're actually teaching them how to be a better friend. Life lessons like these can take time to master, and are only successful when the other person wants to do better.