Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Why Won’t You Apologize?: Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts

Rate this book
Renowned psychologist and bestselling author of The Dance of Anger sheds new light on the two most important words in the English language—I’m sorry—and offers a unique perspective on the challenge of healing broken connections and restoring trust.

Dr. Harriet Lerner has been studying apologies—and why some people won’t give them—for more than two decades. Now she offers compelling stories and solid theory that bring home how much the simple apology matters and what is required for healing when the hurt we’ve inflicted (or received) is far from simple. Readers will learn how to craft a deeply meaningful “I’m sorry” and avoid apologies that only deepen the original injury.

Why Won’t You Apologize? also addresses the compelling needs of the injured party—the one who has been hurt by someone who won’t apologize, tell the truth, or feel remorse. Lerner explains what drives both the non-apologizer and the over-apologizer, as well as why the people who do the worst things are the least able to own up. She helps the injured person resist pressure to forgive too easily and challenges the popular notion that forgiveness is the only path to peace of mind. With her trademark humor and wit, Lerner offers a joyful and sanity-saving guide to setting things right.

208 pages, Hardcover

First published January 10, 2017

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Harriet Lerner

42 books815 followers
Dr. Harriet Lerner, Ph.D. (Clinical Psychology, City University of New York; M.A. Educational Psychology, Columbia University Teachers College), was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, the second of two daughters. Her parents, Archie and Rose Goldhor, were both children of Russian-Jewish immigrant parents. They were high school graduates who wanted their daughters to "be someone" at a time when women were only supposed to "find someone."

"Achievement was next to Godliness for my sister, Susan, and me." Harriet notes. "My father would talk about ‘My daughters the doctors’ while we were still in our strollers."

Growing up, Harriet and Susan spent weekends at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, the Brooklyn Public Library and the Brooklyn Museum. "These places were free and just a subway token away."

Lerner's mother had an unwavering belief in her daughters and strong principles about how to raise children. In Harriet's words:

"Even during the hardest economic times my mother, Rose, made sure that Susan and I had four things that she believed were essential to our later success:

1. Good shoes (I don't mean stylish)
2. A firm, quality mattress
3. A top pediatrician (none other than Doctor Benjamin Spock);
4. A therapist

Unlike other parents of the day who considered therapy to be a last resort of the mentally ill, my mother thought it was a learning experience. She put me in therapy before I was three, after obtaining a health insurance policy that provided weekly therapy sessions for one dollar. I later joked that my mother would send me to a therapist if I came home from school with anything less than a B plus. I was exaggerating, but only a little bit. "

Her mother's belief in therapy undoubtedly contributed to Lerner's career choice. She decided to become a clinical psychologist before finishing kindergarten - a decision she never veered from.

Lerner attended local public schools in Brooklyn including Midwood High School. She did her undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where she majored in psychology and Indian studies. She spent her junior year studying and doing research in Delhi, India. Lerner received an M.A. in educational psychology from Teachers' College of Columbia University and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the City University of New York. It was there that she met and later married Steve Lerner, also a clinical psychologist.

Harriet and Steve did a pre-doctoral internship at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco and moved to Topeka, Kansas in 1972 for a two-year postdoctoral training program at the Menninger Foundation, where they subsequently joined the staff.

"We always planned to move back to Berkeley or New York,” says Lerner. “But two years in Topeka turned into two decades - and then some.” She now identifies herself as a Kansan and claims to have overcome her coastal arrogance. She has grown to love the simple life (meaning she has never had to learn to parallel park) and the big open skies. After Menninger closed shop in Topeka and moved to Houston, Lerner and her husband moved to Lawrence, Kansas where they currently have a private practice. They have two sons, Matt and Ben.

Lerner is best known for her scholarly work on the psychology of women and family relationships, and for her many best-selling books. Feminism and family systems theory continue to inform her writing. She has dedicated her writing life to translating complex theory into accessible and useful prose, and has become one of our nation's most trusted and respected relationship experts.

Lerner's books have been published in more than thirty-five foreign editions. Her latest book (January 2012) is Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up.

New York Distinguished Honor, National Anger Management Association
Kansas Distinguished Award for Literature
William Allen

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
1,769 (48%)
4 stars
1,371 (37%)
3 stars
395 (10%)
2 stars
64 (1%)
1 star
20 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 507 reviews
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,922 reviews35.4k followers
March 5, 2017
"Why Won't You Apologized", examines "The Many Faces of 'I'm Sorry".
For two decades Harriet Lerner has been studying apologies. She's learned a few things ---witnessed tremendous powerful rewards from a heartfelt apology-- as well as the damage a bad apology can cause.

The healing power of a 'good' apology is immediately recognizable. Anger and resentment melts away. It feels better to be connected than disconnected....but as Harriet says, "we're all apology-challenged with certain people and in some situations.

How many of us say:
"Hi, My name is .......I'm happy to meet you. I'm looking forward to our working together. And by the way...."I'm a Champion Apologizer"!!
Yikes.....I'd wonder if this person going to steal my lunch-- then offer up their 'champion apology'?

Kidding aside....We prepare our taxes ( ok, maybe not the President), we prepare for weddings, exams, speeches, living trusts, recitals, dinner guests, etc.....but do we prepare ourselves for effective apologies? ......where the person you care about -and you -both are left feeling -- love - lightness - and connected?
Seeing the missing links to 'what-was-missing' in a couple of past situations for myself was beneficial--not from blame - or shame - or guilt... but from 'humanity' - all parties involved.
The examples in this book were terrific- clear - and easily applied to my own 'memory-of- a -situation' ---- ones I wished would have gone differently. Great little book to 'look-inward' with. Self - evaluate. Complete - Take responsibility for 'our parts' of an apology- no more - no less.

While reading the information that Harriet Lerner was dishing out - at first it seemed reasonable --good common sense'....
but looking deeper, I saw several holes in my 'apology-education' ---giving and receiving. I don't considered myself a complete moron-- fruitcake -of having no desire & skill to apologize, but I wouldn't win a grand prize as "Champion Apologizer" either.
I DEFINITELY picked up some insightful brilliance-- the "Oh, of course, now I see the fool I was"!!!!

I want to be better prepared for relationship bumps in the road. I CARE WHOLEHEARTEDLY about my relationships. So... I 'must' continue to house clean with myself.
I'm a turd sometimes - and so are other people. Being a little more prepared for the hurts and pains is just that: BEING A LITTLE PREPARED!
So how do we do this - so we all win? Can we prepare for the sudden shocking harsh criticism that seems to come from nowhere? How would anyone know how to respond effectively to an 'on- the-spot' attack? .....when emotions are stirring and defensives are rising?

THE ADVICE in this book is worth hundreds of dollars!!!!

"When we've been insulted or injured by someone who just doesn't get it, we can learn the steps necessary to change the tone of the conversation and get through. Other times, however, nothing we say or do will change the unrepentant wrongdoer.
In fact, the more serious than harm, the less likely it is for the wrongdoer to feel genuine remorse and make amends. What does the hurt party do then?"
"The challenge of apology and reconciliation is a dance that occurs between at least two people. We are, many times over, on both sides of the equation".

I TRY TO REMEMBER-- we've all been on BOTH SIDES OF THE EQUATION .....It helps with compassion, empathy, and forgiveness.

Harriet gives examples of common apology mistakes --such as 'adding on'...."but" or "if".
Even if we are convinced we are only partially at fault - --- we can saved a chat for a later - different conversation at a different time. A true apology isn't about us.

At the same time we do not need to forgive the person who has hurt us to feel free from obsessive anger and bitterness. Her chapters on forgiveness add new light to the word. Harriet says it's not our job to encourage others to forgive. We need ways to protect and support our feelings of resentment - anger - and general negative feelings inside -but we can't force or push premature forgiveness. People need to take the amount of time they need.

Effective apologies involve more than saying the right words or avoiding the wrong ones--- but as Harriet points out it's useful to know the difference.
She gives a lesson in "Bad Apologies 101". .... those "buts", "if's", "justification", "excuses".

After we understand simple and middle size apologies- giving and receiving- she moves on to more complex complicated situations. And this is where your money is well spent.

A good apology is a gift....,but a failed one is a terrible cost. Tons of great examples of both in this little gem of a book!

Profile Image for Jaidee .
572 reviews1,071 followers
November 21, 2021
3.5 "an important conversation to begin" stars !!

All of us have been hurt by strangers and loved ones alike. These hurts take up a disproportionate amount of our interior lives and are sometimes the cause of dysfunctional ways of being in the world, in our relationships and with ourselves.

Dr. Lerner begins a very important conversation about the nature of hurt, betrayals, apologies and forgiveness. She bitten off a huge topic and in a pleasant and vaguely helpful way discusses the nature of the above with research, clinical examples and her own lived experience.

The writing is accessible and interesting but she fails to delve into any of the above with the gusto and detail that I craved. This is neither clinical manual nor self-help book but rather a meandering albeit wise tome that weaves in and out with insight and keen observations. This is the kind of book that you may need to read two or three times to allow the material to permeate your own defenses and emotional reactions.

On first read, though, I wanted and expected more from this most helpful of psychologist !

I will not apologize for that !!
Profile Image for Sheri.
1,102 reviews45 followers
April 28, 2021
We’ve all witnessed, or more likely experienced firsthand, the power of an apology. A sincere apology can repair damage done, while an insincere, or even absent apology, can cause further hurt that hits us harder than the deed that should be apologized for. Harriet Lerner shows us how to compose an honest and heartfelt apology, receive an apology, and move forward in restoring our relationships. Well worth the read!
Profile Image for Stacey B.
287 reviews64 followers
September 21, 2022
Omg, it happens and it hurts.
We try to guard our hearts, but never see it coming-until we get slammed with it..
Has anyone experienced something similar :
You make a date with a close friend for dinner.
While you are enjoying a glass of wine or two and catching up, all of a sudden your friend
opens her mouth with a mean spirited insult you certainly were not expecting. You look at her eyes and think- did I hear right? You might respond with "Wait-what..let me get this right- what did you just say? "
Then comes the decision. Do you get into a confrontation or do a non-dramatic exit.
I think one can say almost anything, but it's the tone used that may save it. I suppose my body language gave my hurt away, but she owns those words. And in that one very long 30 seconds of silence I left the friendship at the table. The apology never came; and for me there are no redo's.
When I bought this book, of course I immediately flipped through to find the exact example of what happened to me :) The book puts many things into perspective regardless if you haven't experienced
exactly that. There isn't always the gift of closure; that alone is hard to let go of and eventually accept.
Profile Image for Clif Hostetler.
1,063 reviews697 followers
April 8, 2021
This book explores the power and potential pitfalls of apologies. It offers a guide to the art of crafting an apology that is meaningful and can restore trust. The book also offers insight to situations where the offended person feels they are owed an apology but are not receiving one. And there’s also advice on how to properly receive an apology when it does come.

The author is a psychologist with years of experience to draw from in offering examples of situations where apologies were a factor in saving or ending relationships. The book acknowledges times when relationships can’t be restored and in some cases shouldn’t be saved.

Early in the book the reader is challenged with the following situation:
It’s a profound challenge to sit on the hot seat and listen with an open heart to the hurt and anger of the wounded person who wants us to be sorry, especially when that person is accusing us (and not accurately, as we see it) of causing their pain. Yet both personal integrity and success in relationships depend on our ability to take responsibility for our part (and only our part) even when the other person is being a jerk.
Indeed such a situation requires a well grounded and emotionally secure person to respond without blurting out a pseudo apology (an apology followed with “but … “ ) Another example of a pseudo apology is “I’m sorry you feel that way,”—in other words, “I’m sorry you (not me) has a problem.”

Being human by definition means being imperfect and prone to error and defensiveness. Thus finding the internal wisdom, insight, and strength to craft an effective and heartfelt apology is a skill that doesn’t come naturally to most humans. The examples described in this book offers suggestions and ideas of useful tools, technics, and approaches to various situations. Sometimes the best approach is to concentrate on listening to the other person's feelings, and if it has come as a surprise to ask for some time to think it over.

So how does a victim of betrayal or hurt manage to get over it and move on? The short answer is "any way that works." It will be different for different people. Also, this book takes the position that it is not necessary for a hurt victim to forgive in order to recover and leave it behind. Forgiveness is a personal decision, not something to be told to do.
Profile Image for Antigone.
494 reviews733 followers
July 23, 2020
The most valuable part of this book is Lerner's list of five ways to ruin an apology. Having had apologies ruined for me in just these ways, I thought I might confirm a bit of this.

1. I'm sorry, but...

Doesn't really matter how you end that sentence, it's always going to boil down to, "I'm sorry, but I don't owe you an apology."

2. I'm sorry you feel that way.

"...and here are a few therapists I can recommend to help you with that. Because, you know, the fact that you have feelings is something you should really look into."

3. The Mystifying Apology

Also known as apologies that don't make any sense. Let's say, for example, someone hurts your feelings and then leaves you alone for a little while. Later you find out the leaving-you-alone was meant to be the apology. "I was respecting your feelings!" You mean this pain you brought into being? Seriously? So, in essence, you've been respecting your own handiwork? Good to know.

4. Forgive me already - and do it now!

It is absolutely astonishing how very many people believe the mandated response to "I'm sorry" is "I forgive you." Hold up on that response and you are denying them their rightful share of absolution. Suddenly they're mad as hornets...because, of course, the power has shifted. And right there, before your very eyes, they magically transform into victims.

5. The Intrusive Apology

This is the apology you get from someone whose treatment of you was so egregious that you've decided to have nothing else to do with them for the rest of your life. Also known in my house as: The Your-Feelings-STILL-Mean-Nothing-To-Me Apology...generally offered up by The Only Person on The Planet Who Matters.

I wish I could say the rest of Dr. Lerner's book was of equal value to me, if only in terms of what it might serve to validate. Sadly, it wasn't. For someone who so resolutely espouses the worth of clarity and brevity, it was puzzling to encounter so little of that here.
Profile Image for DeB.
969 reviews246 followers
February 28, 2017
5 stars. Harriet Lerner's latest book is filled with points on apology: the bogus apology, the overlong apology, holding off on the use of BUT and IF which are dealbreakers, and when and how to give and accept an olive branch. Earnest, honest considerate apologies retain connection in relationships, demonstrate respect and maturely express accountability. And most people have a hard time letting go to offer an apology- Lerner covers that and more in her very informative book.

I was hoping to find something a bit different than that, wise advice that it is.
And eventually, on page 143 of this 190 page guide, I did, plus more.

I'm an apologizer, an anomaly in my original family. It was a family that didn't talk about the big stuff, a mom who shut down from my non-apologizing father, siblings who took cues on how to hold power - and I learned to shut up and try to avoid getting in trouble. My father carried and created weighty grudges. My mom ran interference when she could. Apologies were not modelled in that household.

By the time I'd married my second husband, I'd realized that I wasn't a fighter. Neither is my husband. Neither of us had to duck the other and we could refine the art of apology, listening closely and respecting each other. I had a safe zone. I began to take that safe zone with me, in encounters with others, and practiced my apologies openly where I understood I needed to. Not perfection, just trying.

When a sequence of shattering episodes of power plays, blaming, shaming and fury blew up recently, with forty year old grievances I'd never heard before, I was gutted. I was the fall guy for a difficult family transition and their minds were made up. My original family was oddly now serene. There would be no conversation with them. They had said their piece, closed the door. I was uncomprehending.

I tried reason, letters, wishes for explanations, apologies for my ignorance, desire to understand, notes and gifts over an extended time, hoping. Nothing. My father's cross generational pattern of "cut off" had found me.

"Losses we don't see coming are the most difficult to deal with. ....When the non-apologetic wrongdoer has never been accountable, our reactive brain excels in rehashing grievances."

"A heartfelt apology allows the hurt party the space to explore the possibilities of healing instead of just trying to make sense of it all. The apology is also a gift to ourself."

"...we (cannot) orphan ourselves from our first family. When we cut off from a close family member, that person becomes an even bigger presence inside us."

So... how do I go on? I've travelled the corridors of grief and guilt, of disbelief and utter helplessness. I've struggled with irony that my family has been the centrally most important aspect of my life, argued with "letting go" and wrestled with the knotted concept of forgiveness.

Harriet Lerner writes, "When it comes to our close relationships, I agree with the words of Janis Abrahms Spring:


Thank you, Harriet Lerner. For now, then, I'll just breathe.

Five stars. RECOMMENDED. Valuable nuggets on a challenging social skill and relationship changer.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,659 followers
March 11, 2021
This book reminded me of Anna Farris’s character in Just Friends where she kept apologizing "I'm sorry I'm not ugly or I'm sorry I'm not poor." This book is a bit dry but useful.
Profile Image for Connie D.
1,468 reviews45 followers
November 17, 2019
This was a tough book to read....it made me realize how skimpy and hollow some of my apologies have been and why they didn't elicit the responses that I'd hoped for.

It's a wonderful book -- deep insights, great anecdotes that really help explain how different "apologies" and responses affect us, interesting discussion about the possibility of forgiveness, and so many ways to help understand ourselves and others.

I may have to buy this in the future...and mark it all up to remind me when I forget how to apologize, how to handle non-apologies, etc.
Profile Image for Rose.
1,857 reviews1,048 followers
January 3, 2018
Quick review for a quick read. It took me around 4 or so hours to read through this thought-provoking psychological read on the dissection of apologies. Topics that Harriet Lerner approaches in this book include what constitutes an apology (and what doesn't), what the types of apologies are, when and how to give them, why people don't give them, and the reception of apologies on a number of different levels. I also like the fact that this narrative mentions that you don't need to forgive someone for a wrongdoing in order to move forward from it (which is well-intentioned advice, but not a one-size fits all for every person and situation). I like the fact that this book unpacks so many different scenarios with empathy, detail, cultural references, and application. I didn't have previous expectations as to what to get out of this brief read, but it left me with much to think about long after I finished it. I will definitely keep this in my personal library and will revisit it in moments where I need to look at difficult conversations and situations on a number of levels; wonderful audio narration by Cassandra Campbell.

Overall score: 4.5/5 stars.
Profile Image for Lisa.
104 reviews23 followers
May 11, 2018
This book deserves 5 solid stars, and I don’t give out 5 stars very often. This book is invaluable to anyone who has friends and/or family in their lives who lack luster in the apology department. It covers both big hurts, such as deep seeded wounds of child abuse, as well as smaller offenses, such as a friend not saying thank you when you pick up the check.

I have people in my life who behave this way and I find it very frustrating. For this reason, I decided to read the book for myself as well as a possible recommendation for my clients. I don’t like to recommend a book to a client if I myself haven’t read it from cover to cover.

So there I went plowing away at this book , turning the pages and devouring the wisdom on every single page. Dr Lerner delivers her wealth of knowledge and experience with both empathy and humor - a combination I found to be very endearing and personal. By the end of the book, I felt I had just completed a very long, cathartic and productive therapy session myself. . . and I needed it. Who doesn’t? 🙂

Going into this book, I had expected to gain insight as to why others don’t apologize, as well as how I can learn to live with or confront their shortcomings. These insights are indeed in the book and extremely helpful. And in fact, I really wish some of my family members would read this book and learn how to give a heartfelt apology.

However, I didn’t expect to experience self growth in terms of my own shortcomings when it comes to not only giving my own proper apology , but in the ways in which I ask for an apology. I sure can improve on both fronts . . . and I will. ❤️

If you are one of this people who “over apologize,” (I am not), the book also addresses this behavior and you may find it helpful. 🙂

Thank you Dr Lerner . . . I appreciate the therapy session! What a bargain!!! 💜🌷
Profile Image for LittleBlueJay.
36 reviews10 followers
August 29, 2021
This helped me so much in a time of serious distress. I also found out how to improve myself and take accountability for my mistakes and missteps and not put that on anyone else. Highly recommend. Definitely buy for every family member (especially those toxic ones!!)
Profile Image for Marina Sofia.
1,152 reviews245 followers
March 15, 2017
Sensible, clear and wise advice, with humour and honesty throughout. Just what I needed to read and think about. Many clear examples and suggested scripts. A balanced approach, without much of the quasi-mystical gobbledy-gook of many self-help books on this topic.
Profile Image for Kirsti.
2,474 reviews99 followers
August 2, 2022
Clearheaded writing and sensible advice from the bestselling author and psychologist. Here's what I found most useful:

• Some counselors and sages believe that forgiveness is the most noble action on earth, and it's necessary to practice radical forgiveness and lovingkindness to everyone in order to be truly happy. Lerner thinks this is bullshit.

• Lerner says that NOBODY should be urging you to forgive them (or to forgive someone else).

• There's a difference between letting go of anger, hate, and bewilderment and forgiving someone.

• Wholehearted, genuine forgiveness is great, but some people can't be or shouldn't be forgiven because their misdeeds are serious, because they're dead, or because they're physically or emotionally remote from the people they hurt.

• Lerner often works with clients to come up with practical solutions to avoid ruminations and chronic anger or sorrow.

• In some cases, being enraged with someone is a way to stay connected with them. It can also be a way of avoiding having negative feelings toward someone who's more important to you (like being enraged with a spouse's affair partner and making excuses for the spouse, maybe).

• In many situations, there's some fault on both sides. Some people just aren't capable of seeing their part in a negative situation. In that case, you may need to apologize for your part in it and leave it at that.

• A genuine apology is specific and heartfelt and seeks nothing from the person being apologized to—not even forgiveness.

There's some coverage of gay and lesbian relationships here, but nothing I noticed about bisexuals, trans people, or ace/aro people.
Profile Image for ไม้ไต่คู้.
137 reviews68 followers
September 25, 2022
5 สิ่งที่พอจำได้จากหนังสือ why won't you apologize?

1. อย่าพูดว่า "ขอโทษที่ทำให้รู้สึกไม่ดี"

เพราะคุณกำลังบอกเป็นนัยๆ ว่าสิ่งที่คุณทำนั้นไม่ผิด แต่เป็นอีกฝ่ายเองที่ดันมารู้สึกไม่ดีกับการกระทำของคุณ เมื่อขอโทษ ให้โฟกัสคำขอโทษไปที่การกระทำของตัวเอง ไม่ใช่ความรู้สึกของอีกฝ่าย

2. อย่าพูดว่า "ขอโทษนะ แต่..."

เพราะคุณกำลังทำลายคำขอโทษของตัวเอง ด้วยการสาธยายว่าทำไมสิ่งที่คุณทำนั้นถึงสมเหตุสมผลแล้ว ทั้งๆ ที่คุณเพิ่งขอโทษที่ทำมันลงไป

การขอโทษไม่ใช่พื้นที่สำหรับชี้แจงความผิด แต่เป็นการบอกว่าเรารับรู้ว่าตัวเองได้ทำสิ่งไม่ดีลงไป และเราเสียใจกับการกระทำนั้น คำขอโทษที่จริงใจและไร้ข้อแก้ตัว จะเป็นใบเบิกทางให้ทั้งสองฝ่ายได้พูดคุยถึงปัญหานี้มากขึ้นในภายภาคหน้า เมื่อถึงตอนนั้นเราค่อยอธิบายที่มาของการกระทำก็ยังไม่สาย แต่หลายคนจะชอบขอโทษและอธิบายการกระทำของตัวเองในคราวเดียว ทำให้คำขอโทษดูเหมือนข้อแก้ตัวมากกว่า

3. อย่าเร่งรัดให้อีกฝ่ายยกโทษให้

การขอให้อีกฝ่ายยกโทษให้หมายความว่าคุณกำลังให้ความสำคัญกับความรู้สึกของตัวเองมากกว่าคนที่คุณกำลังขอโทษ จุดประสงค์ของการขอโทษไม่ใช่เพื่อให้เราได้รับการอภัย แต่เราขอโทษเพราะเราอยากให้อีกฝ่ายเจ็บปวดน้อยลง และการให้อภัยก็เป็นกระบวนการที่ต้องใช้เวลา

4. ขอโทษเฉพาะสิ่งที่เป็นความรับผิดชอบของคุณ

เช่น ถ้าคุณหยิบของเพื่อนมาโดยไม่บอก แล้วเพื่อนเข้าใจผิดว่าน้องเป็นคนเอาไปจนทำให้เพื่อนกับน้องทะเลาะกัน กรณีนี้คุณผิดที่เอาของไปโดยไม่บอก ก็ขอโทษในส่วนนั้น แต่การที่พี่น้องทะเลาะกันไม่ใช่ความรับผิดชอบของคุณ มันเป็นปัญหาของพวกเขา

5. Guilt is about doing, shame is about being.

เมื่อทำผิด จงรู้สึกผิด แต่ให้แยกสิ่งที่คุณทำกับสิ่งที่คุณเป็นออกจากกัน ถ้าคุณผูกติดการกระทำเข้ากับตัวตน ความเคารพนับถือตัวเองของคุณจะสั่นคลอนเมื่อคุณทำผิด และทำให้การยอมรับว่าตัวเองทำผิดกลายเป็นเรื่องยาก
Profile Image for Su.
269 reviews
May 18, 2017
Reading this book was kind of a wake-up call for me. Before I read this book, I couldn't even recall how many times in my life that I said "sorry" to the other people that they couldn't accept. I got hurt and frustrated so often thinking that the other party did not have the willingness to fix the problems while I wanted to. I would easily jump to conclusions that the other people were being difficult or they just wanted to prolong the fight. The thing was that I was never aware of how insincere some of my apologies may have sounded or they actually were. Which is why this book came to rescue.

Ever since I started reading this book, I got this conscious angel on my shoulder warning me all the signs of making faux apology. This book got me to take a step back and think before I'd apologize someone. "Am I really sorry? Or do I just want to shut up the other person?" And surprisingly, the latter happened more often than I thought. It made me reflect on my past experience with other people and I also started to realize how I may have even worsened the bad situation with my apologies.

It was a great read. I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the rest. I got a little bored after I had finished 60% or so but I would definitely come back to this book whenever I need the advice. It is going to be one of the necessary handbooks of my life.
Profile Image for Amanda.
191 reviews7 followers
December 12, 2020
I first read about this book in the context of so many male politicians' inability to apologize in Rachel Miller's newsletter (which is great in its own right, you should subscribe). Since then, I've actually read this twice. The first time I read it, I read quickly (and while I was going through a divorce) and even at that speed it was helpful and insightful. It changed the way I apologize and how I interact with coworkers. The second time I read it, I read it slowly with a pen and journal near by and it was even more rewarding. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Kair Käsper.
153 reviews29 followers
December 28, 2020
Got a few ideas from this one:
- a shitty apology can be worse than saying nothing
- forgiving isn't binary, you can forgive some parts and not others
- not all things should/can be forgiven

The book is based on the author's own life experience and lacks any kind of scientific credibility. Most of what you'll read is probably already familiar.
Profile Image for Sindhoo.
92 reviews7 followers
June 25, 2019
This is life changing. Harriet Lerner manages to articulate everything that goes so deeply (and to me before I read this book, inexplicably) wrong with relationships - all in a 4 hour book about apologies. I loved this so much that I am going to buy the hard copy as well.
Profile Image for Ashleigh Rose.
320 reviews9 followers
July 13, 2018
Go read this now. It will make you a better person. And then you'll give it to someone else to make them a better person.
Profile Image for Sophy H.
1,215 reviews60 followers
December 17, 2019
Very very informative and useful tool for anyone trying to cope with being overly defensive in their relationship.

Bloody learned behaviour, pssh!
Profile Image for Matthew Jordan.
71 reviews48 followers
June 7, 2022
More Harriet Learner telling it absolutely like it is. This book taught me everything I needed to know about apologies. By the end, I had Google Docs with, like, typologies of different classes of offence and how to apologize for them.

The landscape is more complex than you might think. There are situations where you do something you know is wrong which you want to take accountability for and never do again. There are situations where you hurt someone’s feelings and want to apologize because you feel bad. There are situations where you hurt someone’s feelings but don’t feel bad because you don’t think you did anything wrong. There are situations where you don’t want to apologize but know that apologizing is the only way to get past gridlock and move forward.

The thing I learned from Why Won’t You Apologize is that basically all of these situations require the same thing from the apologizer. Say “I am sorry for [insert thing you did wrong].” No “but”, no excuses, no “sorry if I hurt your feelings”. Nuh uh. Accountability for what was done, apology. Done. Then, you sit and listen to how the other person feels. An apology is not a one-way experience. It’s an invitation for the other person to share how they were hurt. You cannot assume the other person is going to accept the apology and forgive; in fact it helps to ask explicitly for forgiveness.

Like I wrote in my review for Lerner’s other book The Dance of Connection: this takes an extraordinary amount of emotional fortitude and strength. Most people are not good at apologizing like this. It’s not easy to sit in the hot seat while another person tells you how you’ve hurt them. It’s not easy to give a short apology when you want to explain your whole life story and all the subsequent reflection you’ve done and revisit the whole situation. And yet, that’s what’s necessary in order to do this right. Lerner makes the point that a successful apology must come from a place of self-worth: “I know that I am a good person, and that this hurt I’ve caused doesn’t define who I am, so I can confidently take full accountability.”

Reading this book and The Dance of Connection has made me think a great deal about the difference between moral wrongdoing and emotional hurt. What does it mean to do something wrong? Can you do something wrong even if no one’s feelings are hurt? Can you do the right thing and still hurt someone’s feelings? How should we integrate emotions into our calculus of whether something is right or wrong?

I honestly have no clue how to think about these things. Honestly, I’m upset at the institution of philosophy for not forcing me to answer these questions earlier. Philosophy is very good at grappling with moral questions as though no one is ever gonna be upset about it. It’s one thing to take a moral stance. It’s another thing to take a moral stance when you know your mother’s gonna be upset about it. It seems moral philosophy has outsourced this discussion to the realm of literature, the arts, and frankly, psychotherapy. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Life is far too messy for our academic discussions of right and wrong to be void of emotional content, and for our emotion-laden media to be relegated to the realm of entertainment.

I still do not have a satisfying resolution to these questions. I want to be a person who does the right thing, and also a person who doesn’t hurt other people’s feelings. But I think I’ve spent much of my life thinking about this the wrong way. I’ve assumed that if I’ve done something to hurt someone’s feelings, then I’ve done something morally wrong, I’ve violated some ethical principle. I no longer think this is wise. I now think that even the most morally pious life will involve disappointing and upsetting people, both intentionally (like firing someone from a job) and unintentionally (like accidentally saying something hurtful).

The question becomes: “if I am going to hurt someone’s feelings, how do I remain sympathetic to that hurt, without allowing myself to feel like a moral monster?” In other words, how do I avoid letting other people’s feelings affect my sense of personal morality, and also avoid being a psychopath who is completely unaffected by feelings at all? I have absolutely no idea how to strike this balance. I imagine this will be a lifelong project, and that the art of the good apology will play a large role. Thank you, Harrier Lerner!
Profile Image for Hannah.
243 reviews13 followers
April 6, 2021
This book is wildly practical and I read it in one sitting. Absolutely fantastic!

Apologizing sincerely has always been a high priority for me as an adult.

I’ve hurt people, badly, in my life and making a true and sincere apology has been a practice I’ve tried to incorporate.

So much of her advice is solid, and her examples are perfect for how to form sentences and respond to others or speak to others.

I am naturally a defensive person and it’s really hard for me to hear something out of left field, but by Gods Grace I do feel I am decent at offering good apologies. Though not perfect, this book richly encouraged me. As I desire for making things right, caring for the person I hurt, and avoiding Revictimization if I was the offender or abuser.

Not a Christian book, but a richly practical read. 10/10 recommend.
Profile Image for Liz Elsen.
14 reviews2 followers
December 22, 2020
I really enjoyed this book. There were several nuggets that resonated. I listened to the audiobook, but kept stopping what I was doing to make notes, and write down quotes. I’m going to spend some time thinking about this one. “Not everything we break can be fixed” is a big take away.
Profile Image for Andrea McDowell.
564 reviews304 followers
May 7, 2017
This was a great book about how apologies should work, and the many reasons they don't, between mostly functional human beings who usually care about each other, and when (and when not) to forgive someone.

I like to say that a real apology has five parts: 1) the words "I'm sorry" or "I apologize," 2) a description of what offence was committed, 3) an acknowledgement of the damage that offence caused, 4) a promise not to do it again, and 5) some kind of description of how that promise will be kept. So:

"I'm so sorry I spent $5k in Vegas last weekend and then lied and said I spent only $500. I know I made you feel betrayed and broke our trust. It will never happen again. Next time I travel without you I will show you bank statements before and after I go so you can see."


"I'm so sorry I yelled at you and called you a peanuthead. I know that was belittling and hurtful. I won't do it again. Next time I'm that tired and angry, I'll leave the room for a few minutes before we talk so I can avoid calling you names."

See? Not so hard. Except that it is hard, apparently, in practice, and Lerner goes into a fair amount of detail in describing all the ways that apologies can go drastically wrong and make things worse instead of better:

I'm so sorry you're so sensitive.
I'm sorry if that made you angry or whatever.
I'm sorry but it was a long time ago and you need to get over it.
I'm sorry. I'm not perfect and I never meant to hurt you.
I'm sorry if you feel like I lied to you.
I'm sorry, I don't remember it that way.
I'm sorry for whatever you think I did wrong.

etc. etc.

All of which sound like, to the hurt party, "I'm not actually sorry, but I need to have this relationship restored to its former level so I'm going to use the word "sorry" couched in a lot of language making it very clear I consider myself totally blameless and you just completely crazy for being so upset. If you don't forgive me right away I'm going to consider myself the wronged party." And then it doesn't work. Shocking!

I also appreciated her discussion of when forgiveness is not the right or healing thing to do, and the difference between forgiving and letting go. If you often feel yourself ambushed by the forgiveness police, this chapter alone might be worth reading the book for.

My only real quibble is her assumption that non-apologizers and faux-apologizers are always well-intentioned people, and her selection of examples to support her theses often go out of their way to avoid situations where that is clearly not true.

For example, she spends a bit of time talking about a mother-daughter situation where the daughter was molested by her father and the mother, on learning about it, dragged them all into therapy but did not leave her husband/the girl's father for what he did. She left him, instead, years later when he cheated on her (the mom). The story in the book focused on the girl's anger at her mother for not leaving him for the molestation, and what the mother needed to do to repair the relationship in terms of hearing her out and apologizing. Which was all excellent. But the glaring giant purple elephant in the room was the fucking (no pun intended) dad. Who clearly made no attempts to repair the relationship, didn't apologize, and was a monster who molested his daughter. So what about him? What about that relationship? What about the assholes and abusers who can't or won't apologize, not because they're well-intentioned people with shaky self-esteem, but because they are predators without a conscience?

Lerner doesn't discuss this at all. And it's a real oversight, because I imagine a lot of people picking up this book will be looking for insight and information about these kinds of situations, and her stories provided plenty of material, but she just skipped right past it.

Good book, quick read, fairly useful--big gaping hole in the middle.
Profile Image for Heidi.
150 reviews6 followers
March 2, 2017
A slender volume full of generous insights into good and bad apologies: how to frame a deeply meaningful one; how to identify “weaselly” insincere ones; when to accept, when not to, and how to go about it; how to express hurt and pain; how to hold the conversation that comes after; and what the elusive term “forgiveness” means and doesn’t mean.

As to that last point, it’s a myth that “there’s no peace or healing without forgiveness.” Many paths roll up to the door of being able to let go, and the one labelled forgiveness may not always be the best one. Beware the forgiveness police, she says—those who pressure you to do what doesn’t feel right or possible.

And yet Lerner’s approach is all about respect and empathy. You can reach a place of love for a wrongdoer without forgiveness, she says. At its essence is letting go of the need for the other person to be different. That’s when you know you’ve arrived. Utterly brilliant.

I let out a whoop when Lerner discourages readers from applying labels to people (like borderline or narcissistic personality disorder), in favour of “knowing their history and their stories.”

Could there be a better reason for writing memoir? (Answer: no.) What she is advocating takes far more thought and care.

“Achieving a wider historical perspective…can change the meaning of a family member’s behaviour,” she says. By widening the lens, “we temper our anger with compassion, even as we hold that person accountable for their actions. It always helps to have a larger picture…”

It sure does, and that goes for ourselves, too. We need to understand what drives us. We also, Lerner says, need to acknowledge the inevitability of conflict in this world, and give up the fantasy that we’ll go through life without periodically being mistreated. The way to survive that one is to know we are enough unto ourselves.

A wonderful book full of “aha” moments, by a longtime favourite author who shows us to ourselves with clarity, understanding and humour.
Profile Image for Ghaida Moussa.
Author 4 books11 followers
January 24, 2019
Super helpful and lots of examples! She mentions other cultures' views on apologies but then re-centres one view and I wish there was a bit more space left for the former. But still, worth reading!
Profile Image for Leslie.
151 reviews2 followers
August 31, 2020
This was recommended to me by a solid source and I'm really glad I read it. Harriet Lerner has a way of putting things. Something important this book reaffirmed for me is we shouldn't wait around for or expect people to apologize. We can move forward with our lives irrespective of their choices and their version of whatever it is we feel they should apologize for. Especially since, from their perspective, they may well have done nothing wrong.

It sucks, to be sure, but it's also liberating and helps me feel at peace with leaving things up to God to sort out. Someday He'll help all of us recognize the things that we need to apologize for. Some will have Big Betrayals to account for and I know we all inflict Everyday Hurts on each other -and everything else in between. In any case, God will ultimately set everything right and I don't need to waste time or energy in the here-and-now on things that are outside of my control.

Something that has helped me tremendously is realizing that it gets to a point where it's really not about the other person -- whatever it is they've done is between them and God. How I conduct myself in the face of big betrayals and other injuries in life is between God and me. And He can use these things to shape my character and help me grow in unbelievable ways.

Lerner shares an account at the end of the book about one of her clients that had a big impact on me. The things her client, Katrina, learned as she was trying to heal from a massive betrayal felt authentic and resonated with me.

Katrina's husband moved their family across the country for a lucrative opportunity that would advance his career. This meant Katrina needed to make sacrifices in her own career and leave her friends and family, but she was willing to do it.

She came to find out that the reason her husband wanted to relocate was to be closer to his long-distance mistress, who he moved in with not long after the family's arrival. Classy. Lerner shares about how Katrina, though of course in tremendous pain, handled her circumstances with grace. As a testament to her character, Katrina even attended a weekend workshop about trying to forgive others as she was trying to work through the healing process.

She told Lerner that the conference really didn't do anything for her; she literally could not visualize the one who betrayed her enveloped in an aura of light, as she was instructed to do. But she did take away some valuable insights she discovered on her own (no thanks to the conference);

She realized that at some level her former husband could not be as happy as he appeared or even believed himself to be, because people who deceive and diminish others are not deeply happy and fully at peace with themselves.

She also realized that despite some on-going envy and resentment for the good life he had, she did not want to be him. She did not want to be a person who would do what he had done. Her dignity and integrity were intact. Qualities far more important than money could buy.

Katrina said these insights were not new to her, but often what we need most to learn is not new, rather, we must need to learn what we already know and...live it at a deeper level."

Sigh. It's all so hard. We're all so mortal. Thankfully God is not.
Profile Image for Lilly   Minasyan.
346 reviews28 followers
September 18, 2022
“Letting go of anger and hate requires us to give up the hope for a different past, along with the hope of a fantasized future. What we gain is a life more in the present, where we are not mired in prolonged anger and resentment that doesn't serve us.”

I always had this notion that no apology is better than fake "I'm sorry". Words mean nothing if they are not backed by actions and if you know the person is not ready to apologize, we need to give them space and time to come to that conclusion.

the book was very insightful and it showed various ways how the apology could be given, and received. I always would say "oh don't worry about it!", when someone would apologize, however if the apology is right, you should say "thank you for the apology". We need to practice also receiving an apology.

At the end of the day, letting go is the best solution for grief. The more you hold on the grudge and resentment, it makes you a bitter person.

I believe a lot of people would gain some valuable knowledge from this book, especially if you are holding on to the past and constantly thinking "what if" or "this person did me wrong".
The book also highlighted that not every apology would lead to reconciliation. When someone hurt you deeply, you can acknowledge the apology, but not let that person into your life.

Forgive and forget - is my way. I do get emotionally drained holding onto grudges. I rather cut the person out of my life, and move on.

Definitely recommending.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 507 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.