Sorry, Not Sorry: The Art of Apologizing
I am sorry you got mad!
Have you ever read or heard someone’s apology and thought, “Wow, that doesn’t sound like much of an apology at all?”
I have made, heard, read and received a lot of apologies in my life. Most of them are half- or non-apologies. There is an art to the apology, and I’d like to introduce you to how not to apologize first and finish with how to apologize.
Some apologies are actually insults. “I am sorry you didn’t understand me.” Let me translate that: “I think you are too stupid to understand what I meant and you should be sorry for that.” If you end up saying something like this, you haven’t apologized. Try again.
Some apologies are a dodge-pology, an attempt to avoid apologizing while appearing to apologize. “I wanted to tell you that I meant to say that I was sorry about what we were talking about earlier, but I didn’t get a chance to say it.” Or, “I deeply regret the manner in which these events have unfolded and want you to know that I have great respect for you.” Translation? “I do not apologize.” If you went to this level of effort, you should try again. Just say, “I am sorry.”
It’s You, Not Me
Then there is the not-about-me-pology. “I am sorry you got mad.” This kind of apology tries to shift the blame for the situation on to the hurt party and away from the person who did the hurting. If someone comes to you and says you hurt them with an action or words, don’t shift the blame to them. Take responsibility and apologize.
“I am sorry that what I said hurt your feelings.” This is a mixed bag of emotional spaghetti that can be difficult to untangle. The person may sincerely regret the hurt they caused, but not regret the action or statement they made. It can all be about timing and context. Don’t be too hard on people who use this kind of apology. They may be completely apologetic and truly care about the hurt they caused.
Recipe For a Proper Apology
So, how do you apologize? Let’s make an apology sandwich and don’t forget the mayo!
First, you have to understand that you are and will often be wrong. As fallible, weak, inconsistent creatures, we humans are open to making mistakes so often we ought to not be called “mistakers.” So, you’ve made a mistake. Now what? Apologize. Don’t quibble, vacillate or equivocate.
Just say, “I am sorry.”
Describe the action or statement you made that hurt the other person and clearly take responsibility for it. Once you have stated you understand what hurt the other person, apologize again.
Just say you are sorry. No fancy words, no bold statements, no big promises. Just some good apology lunch meat on whole grain facts, with another slab of apology on the other side.
If there is an action you can take that helps underscore your apology, take that action, but keep in mind that the words “I apologize” must come out of your mouth or be typed in your message.
I apologize. I took too long to make my point. I am sorry.