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What to do when someone won’t apologize: 11 effective tips

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The hardest, most frustrating part about any friendship or break-up is the lack of an apology.

Just hearing an apology from someone who has wronged you has the power to make everything better. It can often heal a broken friendship, repair a damaged relationship, or just make everything feel right again.

But what if a person refuses to apologize? What if they just won’t say they’re sorry? How do we deal with that?

Here are the 11 useful tips to deal with someone who won’t apologize.

1) You need to set a boundary

The first thing you need to do if someone refuses to apologize is establish a boundary.

When you’re angry and want someone to feel bad for what they’ve done, it’s very easy to just keep ranting and raving about the pain they caused.

But this is only going to escalate the problem.

You never want to fight with a person or try to get them to see that their behavior was problematic when you’re in this state of mind.

Instead, take some time away from the person and calm down. Let them get on with their life while you deal with your anger and hurt feelings.

As suggested by the American Psychological Association, you need a cooling-off period to consider the situation rationally. You might want to take some time away from the person and do something that takes your mind off the problem.

For example, if your relationship ended because of a fight, you might want to distract yourself from other activities and people.

If your best friend refuses to apologize after hurting you, don’t spend all day obsessing over what they did wrong and what they need to say.

So, here’s the deal:

What if they keep crossing your boundaries? What if you’re too hurt or angry to listen to what they have to say?

You can always take more steps and make more boundaries as your anger subsides. The point is you have some leeway here.

You don’t have to be so hard on yourself and let the other person off the hook when they do something wrong if you can’t forgive them at the moment.

2) Ask for an explanation

When you feel wronged and haven’t gotten an apology, the next thing you need to do is ask for an explanation.

There’s no reason to believe that the other person meant any harm by their actions, and nobody expects people to be able to read minds.

They may have had a good reason for doing what they did and it may or may not have caused any damage.

Regardless of what happened, you don’t want to burn bridges with them by being too angry. You need to lay off before things get worse than they already are.

A famous story about dealing with someone who won’t apologize by asking for an explanation is the anecdote about Abraham Lincoln and his mother.

When he was a child and got into trouble, his mother often asked him to sit down and explain to her what he had done wrong. When it was clear that he understood what had happened, she refused to punish him.

This is an example of how you can deal with a person who won’t apologize by asking for an explanation, but also teaching them that there are consequences for their actions.

Thus, according to an article by Joseph Grenny and Ron McMillan, authors of Crucial Conversations:

“Most people want to feel good enough about themselves that they won’t return a verbal volley. If you’ve introduced the idea of something being wrong or offensive, you’ll likely hear additional thoughts or statements later on to prove whether your assumption is accurate.”

So give it a go:

When someone refuses to apologize, ask for an explanation.

3) Resolve the conflict within yourself

If you’re still struggling with asking for an apology and you feel like the other person is being insincere, then try to resolve the conflict within yourself.

The truth is, most of us never realize how much power and potential lies within us. We can handle difficult situations and solve conflicts with ease.

The problem is that we often don’t use this power to our advantage.

I learned this (and much more) from the world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandé. In this excellent free video, Rudá explains how you can lift the mental chains and take back your personal power.

A word of caution – Rudá isn’t your typical shaman.

He doesn’t paint a pretty picture or sprout toxic positivity like so many other gurus do.

Instead, he’s going to force you to look inwards and confront the demons within. It’s a powerful approach, but one that works.

So if you’re ready to take this first step and align your dreams with your reality, there’s no better place to start than with Rudá’s unique technique.

Here’s a link to the free video again.

4) Talk about the mistake

Don’t get into the habit of side-stepping around the real issues. If you want an apology, then focus on what you don’t agree with about the situation.

Tell them you want to talk about something that bothered you and ask if they’re willing to listen.

There’s nothing wrong with talking about something in the past, especially if it still upsets you today.

Sometimes people hold on to hurts and feel insecure without even realizing why. They may not even understand why they feel irked by something in the first place!

Asking someone else to listen and understand your point of view can help clear things up for both of you. Sometimes, when we’re trying to explain something, it helps to have someone else listen and get it.

Think about that for a minute:

Even if the other person doesn’t agree with you, and even if they don’t feel bad about what they did, you’re still going to benefit from this process. Because you’re no longer angry or resentful, you’re now able to talk about what happened and learn from it.

So don’t skip this step! Instead, tell them what happened and how it made you feel. Tell them how they were able to change something in a negative way that hurt you.

5) Don’t make too much of an issue

If the person who hurt you really is remorseful, then they’ll probably be more than willing to make up for it.

But if they don’t seem like they care about making things right and just want to get over it, then you can consider that an apology is not in the cards.

Imagine the real situation:

You and the other person are at a meeting with several other people, and you start to feel angry about something.

You know that your friend did something that hurt you, but now is not the time to talk about it.

Even if they wanted to apologize, they couldn’t do it now because everyone would hear them. The situation is ripe for an argument!

This is why you should not make too much of an issue, always try to be mindful of what’s happening around you and make sure there’s no audience when you need to vent or get an apology.

You may have forgotten this minor detail during the heat of the moment, but during those times your mind does not work as clearly as it does in normal conversations.

6) Show them that you’re not mad

The other thing you need to do is show them that you’re not angry. This may seem easy in theory, but it can be difficult to actually do in practice.

It’s not always possible to totally stay calm and not get emotional when someone does something that upsets you or makes you feel bad about yourself.

Sometimes we put ourselves through a lot of difficulty for a simple apology that isn’t even really what we want.

But when someone hates themselves so much over the situation that they become depressed, anxious, or angry at other things, it’s nearly impossible for them to apologize just because they want to feel better about themselves.

I’ve been there:

Being angry at my friend but still manage to show her that I was not mad. She didn’t get what she wanted out of the apology, but I did.

In the book called Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Grenny and McMillan explain that sometimes it’s best to just let people do what they do.

If anything, you’ll have one more thing to talk about when you’re ready to apologize!

7) Use your intuition and think about the other person

If you don’t like to insult or trick any one person into telling you that they’re sorry, then try to think about them in a different way.

One thing I try not to do when I’m feeling angry is to insult the other person and say that they can’t get an apology out of them.

In my opinion, it’s better in this situation to simply think about the other person and what they’re going through.

Carl Rogers, a famous psychologist, gave advice: one way that you can do this is to simply say “I wonder…”

For example, let’s say that your friend is late to dinner because they have an event that they volunteered for. While you’re waiting, you think to yourself, “They’re late because of something they volunteered for.”

When you think about it this way, you’ll remember that the other person doesn’t need an apology because they did something worthy.

And if you think of them as a good person who would volunteer for a worthwhile cause, then maybe it’s time that you apologize instead of insisting on one.

8) Set realistic expectations

You should never expect the other person to apologize for all time. Instead, you should set realistic expectations about when you will get it and how much effort it will take for them to get it.

You should also know that your friend may not be good at apologizing. Someone who holds a lot of pride may not feel like they owe you anything, especially if they feel that they’ve already apologized enough or maybe even too much.

Setting realistic expectations can help you avoid the unhealthy mindset of a martyr, which is the thought process that you’ll always be wrong and need to apologize for everything.

Let’s dig a little deeper:

Your friend does something that hurt you, so you expect them to apologize. You might think that you should get an apology whenever they do something that makes you feel bad.

But what if they don’t feel guilty about it?

Let’s say that you make a request to your friend and they don’t follow through on it. You expect them to apologize for this, but instead, they might just shrug it off as something that “just happens.”

In this situation, you feel like you’re being taken advantage of and you’ll likely be angry.

But if your friend doesn’t feel like they owe you anything or are too proud to apologize just yet, then maybe it’s best to wait a while before demanding one.

Maybe they will regret not apologizing sooner or worry about the repercussions that apologizing might have on the relationship.

So setting realistic expectations can help you avoid pressuring the other person or getting upset when they don’t give you what you want.

9) Don’t rupture their ego

It’s important not to put the other person down when you are trying to get them to apologize.

You need to always remember that when you put someone else down, you’re putting yourself down.

Everybody wants to feel like they’re a good person and that their actions are helping them get what they want out of life.

It’s very easy for your criticism to sound like an insult, even if it wasn’t your intention.

But I get it, dealing with someone who won’t apologize can be hard especially if you want to express your anger and make a point.

If that’s the case, I highly recommend watching this free breathwork video, created by the shaman, Rudá Iandê.

Rudá isn’t another self-professed life coach. Through shamanism and his own life journey, he’s created a modern-day twist to ancient healing techniques.

The exercises in his invigorating video combine years of breathwork experience and ancient shamanic beliefs, designed to help you relax and check in with your body and soul.

After many years of suppressing my emotions, Rudá’s dynamic breathwork flow quite literally revived that connection.

And that’s what you need:

A spark to reconnect you with your feelings so that you can begin focusing on the most important relationship of all – the one you have with yourself.

So if you’re ready to take back control over your mind, body, and soul, if you’re ready to say goodbye to stress and anger, check out his genuine advice below.

Here’s a link to the free video again.

10) Consider the potential impact

Sometimes, when someone is angry, they could be feeling more upset about the situation than you even realize.

For example, maybe because of pain in the relationship, your friend wants to get something off their chest and let you know how bad they feel about what happened.

During these times when your friend seems like they want to apologize but are too hurt or too mad to do so, it can be beneficial for both of you if you wait until the emotion subsides.

When someone is angry at another person and especially when they seem upset by an apology request, they often ask them to stop apologizing because it feels like a burden that was placed on them.

Another situation is when someone gets angry about something that the other person said, and the person is feeling so hurt by their reaction, they want to get back at them without apologizing.

This can be a very unhealthy situation to endure because you’re both being mean to each other and there’s no apology in sight. But it’s also normal!

In this case, consider that your friend may be so upset about what happened that they want to return fire but are too hurt or mad to apologize.

In these situations, consider these possibilities and think of what you could do if you feel your friend is not sincere when they ask for an apology.

11) Focus on the relationship

An apology is often used as a carrot to keep people in relationships together. Between friends, family, and lovers, it’s only natural that we want to feel like we are loved and doing the right things.

The result of this is that when someone doesn’t apologize to us, they may not realize how they are affecting the relationship.

For example, your friend might apologize so much that it becomes annoying or it could be a sign that they don’t feel good about what they did.

To avoid the situation where you’re angry about your friend not apologizing for what they did, it can be helpful to focus on the relationship.

For example, if you feel like your friend only apologizes when you ask them to, then maybe your friend doesn’t feel very good about their actions and they’re just apologizing to make you happy.

In this case, you may want to stop asking for an apology because it’s likely that the other person is only giving one out of obligation and not because they mean it.

Or if a relationship is fine with no apologies, then there’s no reason to focus on the “what if” scenarios. Building a good relationship is often more important and helpful than waiting for an apology.

Final thoughts

Keep in your mind:

Apologies are necessary for certain situations, and they’re great if they come with feeling and sincerity. But if they don’t, it’s better to just focus on what’s going right in your relationship rather than getting angry about a single incident.

Hopefully, you’ll find this article helpful in dealing with someone who won’t apologize by using 11 effective tips. Thanks for reading!

Written by Thảo Anh Nguyễn

It is the little daily things that make life worth living and I know how to put you in the right perspective. I write about the intersection of life and love: how spirituality has changed my relationships, what I do to cultivate love in my life, and why I believe that all relationships are spiritual. Meet all your needs for your relationship and pieces of life advice with my articles.

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