Apologies 101: 5 Do’s and Don’ts
What Makes an Apology Bogus
I’ve been meaning to write this article for a while. I think that talking about apologies and the way we should apologize is vital to our everyday lives and to our relationships.
Yet, I found myself unable to figure out how to start talking about this. In theory, it should be simple to apologize, to simply say “I hear you and I am sorry”, but that rarely seems to be the case.
Bad apologies seem to be everywhere. I know I had to learn how to apologize and how to genuinely show the other person I was sorry. Sometimes you do need to learn how to properly apologize and that’s okay.
Especially since a lot of us are expected to internalize our feelings and often expect other to do the same.
On the other hand, getting a shitty apology can be one of the most disappointing hurting things one can experience in a relationship (of any kind).
At the end of the day, the way the other person treats your feelings, your hurt, and the way they respond to that hurt reveals a lot about their person.
It is hard sometimes to put your own pride aside and say the words “I’m sorry”. Yet there’s no denying the importance of those words even when it takes work to say them.
It also takes work to figure out the differences between a bogus apology that does nothing to address the issues at hand. Over the last few years I’ve learned that what it comes down to a willingness to learn and listen.
What Makes an Apology Bogus
Over the last few years I’ve learned how to properly apologize and how to ask for the apology I know I deserve.
- Saying “I’m sorry, but…” or any variation on that. Qualifying your apology just points to someone who doesn’t want to own up to their actions. At the end of the day, an apology is an acknowledgement of the hurt caused, by adding a but, or placing blame on the other party, it just cancels out.
- Adding a rude comment after the fact. This one seems to be pretty obvious, but still I think it bears repeating. Saying things that excuse or justify your behavior are not needed. Don’t add things like “I’m not a mind reader” or “whatever”. Statements like this just show that you don’t respect the other person.
- Saying sorry for someone else’s feelings. The whole point of an apology is to take responsibility for your actions. apologizing on behalf of the other party’s feelings is probably the most toxic thing you can do. This basically puts the blame on the other person and invalidates their experience.
- Making the argument about every past argument. This has more to do with what comes before. By trying to make the other apologies for past just works to invalidate the own apology. It’s important to really acknowledge the current problem and actually give it the space and time it deserves.
- Invalidate the other party’s feelings. Never try and diminish the issue at hand. Whether it was an off hand comment or something more serious, it’s important to never say things like “It’s not a big deal” , “Why are you making a big deal about this”, “It’s just a joke”, “Lighten Up”, “Think about it objectively”etc.
What Makes A Good Apology
- Using I statements. Using the word “I” is so powerful when I comes to apologizing. It allows the other person to know that you are taking their feelings seriously and that you are owning up to the hurt caused.
- Using caring language. One of the things I appreciate the most is when the other person is actually kind and receptive. When it comes to anger, I know it’s hard to calm down enough to show care, but I think even saying the words “You are important to me” make a huge difference.
- Listen to the problems. Let the other person tell you how they feel. Let talk without interrupting them. Especially when you’re the person in the wrong it’s important to let someone else let you know what bothered them, how you made them feel, and where they want to go from here. This is probably the most important.
- Ask Clarifying Questions. If you’re really confused about what you did wrong, you can ask questions with care.
- Follow through with actions. This another one that seems obvious but sometimes it seems like this is the one thing that is always missing. After you’ve apologized you have to show that you respect the other person enough to keep up with your promises to be better. Your actions are just important when it comes to apologies.
Why does this matter?
Words, at the end of the day matter, and how you say things matters. It is a reflection of you and the importance of the relationship between you and the other person/party.
Relationships are built on learning and respecting the other person. Without a good apologies it’s hard for that relationship to grow and flourish. The act of apologizing is an act of love, of care. It is important to treat it as such.
I'm a recent grad of Brown University. I studied literary arts where I was able to perfect my writing, storytelling, and editing skills. I'm also an avid reader, tarot card reader, and rea drinker.