You would think apologizing would be something everyone knows how to do properly and well. All humans err. What makes us good humans is the ability to right our wrongs through acknowledging the negative impact our follies have on other humans around us. At least, that’s my definition of a good person – I understand we all make mistakes. What I look for in a friend is the individual’s willingness to admit the mistake and correct it to the best of their ability. In addition, that person should take the time to say an earnest, heartfelt apology to those who ain’t real keen on what they did.
An example of an apology done well? The Kickstarter kerfuffle about the quasi-rapey guide. Kickstarter screwed up big, but instead of hiding behind excuses or passing the buck, they admitted that they were in the wrong. They admitted their policies weren’t up to snuff. They said they didn’t want anyone to be hurt because of something they let slip through the cracks. On top of that, they outlined their plan of action to prevent this sort of thing from happening again and contributed money to a fund for victims of rape and incest. That’s how to apologize, folks. Yeah, it didn’t undo all the wrongs, but it’s pretty much the definition of “What good people do when they’ve been bad people.”
All that being said, here are a few pro-tips on how to make amends when the need arises.
DO acknowledge that you understand how you fucked up. We all fuck up. Contrary to popular belief, it’s okay to admit it. Telling the person, “I understand that I did this and it was hurtful” — or words expressing the same sentiment — lets the person that you’ve wronged know that you understand. And in expressing understanding? We feel more assured that the same mistake might not happen again.
DO offer an apology without qualifiers. If you’ve hurt someone, and you care that you’ve hurt someone, a simple “I am sorry” is usually the best course of action. The moment you say, “I’m sorry, but . . . ” your apology is meaningless. It means you’re apologizing under protest. That even though you’re offering these words to the other person, you don’t mean them because you still feel justified that you did whatever it was that upset them in the first place. Don’t give the apology if you don’t mean it because then we’ll know. And you’ll look like a douche.
DO NOT add in any other neat addendums later on, like “This is being blown of out proportion.” Those are also qualifiers. That means you’re only offering the apology to get out of the conversation faster.
DO NOT ever say, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Because that means you’re not sorry for whatever it is you did that hurt them, you’re sorry that they feel how they feel. Why the hell would ANYONE want someone to apologize to them for their feelings? They’re THEIR feelings! You don’t own them. What you’re effectively saying here is not that you apologize, but that YOU are disappointed/inconvenienced/dismissive of THEIR upsets. And it makes you sound like a douche. Again. Don’t be a douche.
DO watch your tone. Tone matters. Snapping an apology is useless. You can say the nicest words in the universe to a person, but if you say them with a crappy tone of voice? Yeah. Meaningless. Still a douche.
DO be cognizant of the feelings of those around you. An apology someone has to fish for is always weaker than one offered because you cared enough to check on them in the first place. If you suspect you’ve said something stupid or done something stupid, take the time to ask questions. “What happened here?” “Are you okay?” If what they tell you resonates as, “I’ve been an accidental dink” – apologize without them having to milk it out of you. An apology offered is far more meaningful than the one wrung from your dead, dusty bones.
DO learn from your mistakes. If you keep apologizing for the same mistake over and over, the apology is hollow. There’s this saying out there: “A smart person learns from their mistakes. A smarter person learns from the mistakes of others.” Would you like to be smart? Or would you like to be smarter? If you’re neither and keep saying, “OOPS, LOL, SORRY” – you’re a douche. (Man, I’m noticing a lot of douching in this post.) Also, if you learn from the mistakes of others, you’ll have less to apologize for in the future. And then your douche-factor will decrease by a lot. Wouldn’t that be a nice thing? To not be a douche? YAY FOR NOT-DOUCHING!