Monday, November 16, 2009

Anatomy of an Apology

We've all done wrong, and we've made mistakes. In short, we've all hurt one another and need to apologize on occasion. Because of this, it's a good thing to know how to apologize. Now, as we all know and have experienced, there are good apologies, and there are bad apologies. In fact, the bad apologies, when recognized, are generally not considered true apologies at all. There are many benefits to offering a bad apology. For example, you can get rid of guilt without actually repenting. You can spike the guns of your opponent by claiming that you've already apologized, and therefore it would be unreasonable of them to keep complaining about it! And all of this without any damage to your pride. So, if you wanted to apologize sincerely, how would you go about it? On the other hand, what if you want to apologize in such as way as to not admit any guilt, what are the best techniques to use? I will tell you!

I have narrowed down the subject to seven key parts of an apology, and I'll go over them point by point, starting with the good way to apologize.
Step One:
Be sincere
This is pretty simple. Just actually be sorry!

Step One, the bad way:
Be grudging about it, annoyed, or even sarcastic.
That way, no matter what words you use, they will know know that you aren't genuinely sorry.
Step Two:
Take personal responsible for your actions
It may not always be good to be ego-centric, but in this context it's important. Start the sentence with "I" and not "you." Say "I was unloving" rather than "you made me mad." Taking personal responsibility implies that you could have acted otherwise, but didn't. You are responsible for the action.

Step Two, the bad way:
Blame external forces. Or better yet, blame the person you are apologizing to!
Make it obvious that you really had no choice. You could not possibly have acted other than the way you did. It was all because you were stressed from work, which you couldn't possibly control. It was all because they pushed your buttons.
Step Three:
Acknowledge that what you did was wrong
Yes, admit that it was actually and objectively wrong. It was actually a sin.

Step Three, the bad way:
Do not acknowledge that there was anything really wrong about it
Maybe it was wrong, and maybe it wasn't. And if it was wrong, it was only a little bit wrong: not a big deal. It probably wasn't really wrong, and if it was, it didn't really count cus it was only barely wrong. More like a grey area. Or something.
Step Four:
Acknowledge the other person's pain
Say something like "I know that what I did really hurt you."

Step Four, the bad way:
Make them seem over-sensitive
Imply or suggest that what you did or said wasn't really hurtful, and if they felt hurt by it, it's only because they are irrational, easily hurt, or just overly sensitive to things. In other words, if you must admit that they felt pain, blame it on them.
Step Five: (Optional)
Explain the situation
Once again, this is optional, it's sometimes not the best thing to do, but sometimes clarity does help.

Step Five, the bad way:
Justify extensively
Go on and on about what you choose and why, why it made sense, why there really wasn't any other good options, how you felt badly about what they did to start the situation, etc. Oh, and if they complain, excuse yourself by saying that you are "just trying to explain."
Step Six:
Say that you are sorry
That's right, use the word "sorry." Say something like "I'm sorry," "I'm truly sorry," or "I'm sorry and I will do my best, by God's grace, not to ever do that again."

Step Six, the bad way:
Don't use the "sorry" word. But if you absolutely have to, add an "if" or "but" clause at the end.
You know what I mean... "I'm sorry if what I did was somehow offensive to you in some way." "I'm sorry for saying what I did, but you really shouldn't do awful stuff like that which makes anyone feel like reacting that way." Just make something else to fit the situation! As long as you use the words "if" or "but," the sorry part will count as being said, but won't count toward meaning anything.
Step Seven:
Ask for forgiveness, with the attitude that you don't deserve it
Asking for something is a request, not a demand. Ask for forgiveness and reconciliation in a humble attitude of contrition.

Step Seven, the bad way:
Act like they should have gotten over it already
They should have forgiven you already. It's their moral duty. It was overreacting to hurt about it to begin with, and so it would be just simply ridiculous if they were still holding on to some sort of grudge about the issue which, for the record, you've already apologized about. Make it an implied demand.


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