View Full Version : Apologies...Who, When, Why, How?


20thcenturyfox
02-10-17, 02:29 PM
Most people make all sorts of apologies, from the most minor "oops" where no one was really affected to "gosh, I'm sorry" when you accidentally step on someone's foot. Then there are the bigger apologies where you know you screwed up and someone else was inconvenienced, put to trouble or expense, or hurt. (Of course, we may worry about admitting fault because some of these may turn into lawsuits, though I maintain some offences turn into lawsuits that could have been easily avoided by a prompt apology and modest amends!)

And finally there are the more complicated personal situations where mutual misunderstandings, reactivity, and bad behaviour lead to mutual confusion and bad feeling, often with plenty of fault to go around. In that case, should both refuse to apologize since neither is 100% at fault? Do you have to be at fault to apologize?

Many children are "made to" apologize, so it becomes about power as well as fault. Gang members and despots demand that their subjects apologize for trivial or non-existent offences...so purely about power in that case.

Apologies that are demanded or expected are probably never going to feel good to the apologizer. But do you ever actually want to apologize? Why? Does it ever feel good to do so?

Then as recipients, we know apologies run the gamut from the grudging, though the insincere or effusive, to the heartfelt and healing. But what makes the difference? Do you ever feel an apology is mandatory? Do you care whether it is sincere? Or is it more the public acknowledgement you care about?

As a recipient, have you ever received an apology that meant a lot? Has it ever helped heal a hurt, or even mend a whole relationship? Have you ever received one that made you angry or bitter? What do you think accounts for the effect? What does a good apology contain?

What has been your experience with apologizing? When do you think people should apologize, and what should they be trying to accomplish?

dvdnvwls
02-10-17, 02:43 PM
When someone has hurt me, psychologically rather than physically, their apology is much more meaningful and works a lot better when they understand (or make a sincere effort to understand) how and why I was hurt. In other words, an empathetic apology works better on me than a non-empathetic one.

I think the importance of that for me may be partly due to my own personality.

dvdnvwls
02-10-17, 02:49 PM
Apologizing for one's own part in a mutually-created mess is usually a good idea IMO.


Forced apologies are appropriate for children who are at a stage where they legitimately haven't learned the whole "apology thing" yet. Forced apologies in other situations are usually a power play by the person doing the forcing. However, that doesn't have to be a bad thing either. For example, an abused person finding a way to force an apology from the abuser might make a positive difference.

20thcenturyfox
02-10-17, 03:11 PM
...
Forced apologies are appropriate for children who are at a stage where they legitimately haven't learned the whole "apology thing" yet. Forced apologies in other situations are usually a power play by the person doing the forcing. However, that doesn't have to be a bad thing either. For example, an abused person finding a way to force an apology from the abuser might make a positive difference.

I hadn't thought of forced apologies having a positive application...what an interesting idea.

dvdnvwls
02-10-17, 03:28 PM
I hadn't thought of forced apologies having a positive application...what an interesting idea.
I'm not sure whether the benefits could be real, or only imagined. Then again, sometimes even an imagined benefit might have a worthwhile placebo effect. I just don't know.

20thcenturyfox
02-10-17, 04:51 PM
When someone has hurt me, psychologically rather than physically, their apology is much more meaningful and works a lot better when they understand (or make a sincere effort to understand) how and why I was hurt. In other words, an empathetic apology works better on me than a non-empathetic one.

I think the importance of that for me may be partly due to my own personality.

I don't think it's just you. I also count empathy as the magic sauce in any good apology. It's not the only element, but to me it is the most crucial to set the stage for a good response and a better relationship.

This is the problem with dwelling too much on some objective standard of fault ("how terrible was what I did?"), or the feelings of the apologizer ("look how bad I feel"). Neither addresses the impact on the "apologizee" which may be obvious and proportional...but may also be unexpected and completely out of proportion to the "gravity of the offence."

If the offender is only interested in his own code of conduct and his own feelings of remorse, that may go part way to re-setting the expectations between the parties that this will not be repeated. However, even in a business setting, where you might think objective standards would be most appropriate, hurt feelings and bruised egos have a way of leading to negative fallout in any ongoing relationship. In a personal relationship where emotional safety and a sense of being cared for are more obvious priorities, objective apologies are likely to do more harm than good.

Empathy--focussing on how the victim was affected, and apologizing for THAT--seems to make all the difference in how an apology is received and how it can help repair both the hurt to the individual and the damage to the relationship. You may have done nothing "wrong" at all, but if you see your good intentions have resulted in hurting someone you care about, why miss the opportunity to heal that hurt?

You can definitely get empathy wrong...that is, you may completely miss how another person actually felt or was affected. So can be dangerous to presume. But I don't think you can go wrong trying to understand. Putting yourself in the other person's position seems to be a darn good starting point for most apologies, whether in business or in personal relationships.

dvdnvwls
02-10-17, 06:55 PM
I remember an interesting interview on the radio, where the person was talking about why the "golden rule" of treating others as you would want to be treated can often be wrong, for just the kinds of reasons you're getting at.

Sarcasm is a good example in my case - I don't mind if people use it to me, and I have wrongly assumed it was therefore OK in general.

BellaVita
02-10-17, 08:55 PM
If I have hurt the other person, regardless of whether or not I can understand right away how I have hurt them (I can sometimes lack theory of mind) then I apologize for sure. Because it shows that I care, and it shows that I'm sorry that I hurt them. And I try to understand how I have hurt them, so that hopefully I can avoid doing that thing again in the future. And so that the person feels understood.

I also think apologizing when two people get into a messy conflict, is good for both parties to do. I've also found that letting go of focusing on who is at fault in those situations and instead choosing to be empathetic and understanding and apologizing is way more important. It really helps smooth things over and helps both people to feel more understood and loved in the end. (* note: do not attempt this with manipulative people, it doesn't work and they will find fault and blame in you no matter what. It is probably best to just walk away from these types of situations.)

I've also learned that blame is almost always toxic and unproductive.

I think a lot of people feel blame is necessary and needed, but I have found that to be just the opposite.

20thcenturyfox
02-11-17, 07:45 AM
... I've also found that letting go of focusing on who is at fault in those situations and instead choosing to be empathetic and understanding and apologizing is way more important. It really helps smooth things over and helps both people to feel more understood and loved in the end. (* note: do not attempt this with manipulative people, it doesn't work and they will find fault and blame in you no matter what. It is probably best to just walk away from these types of situations.)

While I wholeheartedly agree with the rest of your post, too, I wanted to highlight this insight about manipulative people responding differently to empathy and apologies. I think this must be true, but I had never added it up so clearly myself.

It occurs to me Bella may have just identified a rough diagnostic test for manipulative people...and another good reason to be generous in your apologies. When you find yourself getting a bad (i.e. exploitive) response to a good apology...once, twice, three times...you have just identified someone who is not available for a good relationship. Bingo!

I like it. Good work, Bella.

Wuvmy3kitties
02-11-17, 01:21 PM
Ok, I am not good at explaining things, but I will do my best....

I have times where I've said or done something inappropriate, and as a Christian, felt conviction for the offense. I know I was wrong, acted stupidly, and need to apologize. So there are times when apologies are necessary.

Having said that, the times I feel apologies should not be forced are when someone is hurt by someone else and that person is expected to do so, in order for the hurt party to feel better. aka they come and say "you need to apologize" and that you are then expected to change your ways to make them happy. It's been my experience that often the hurt party does not return the apology, and I've had instances where I apologized and was told "apology NOT accepted" followed by a rant from the other person. I've also been thru circumstances where someone was (supposedly) hurt, I was forced to apologize and did, but the offended party continued to act the same. I am not the kind to just say "I'm sorry" half-heartedly in those situations. I try to do a lot of soul searching and try to see things from the hurt person's viewpoint. I do not apologize just to save face. I try to be compassionate and genuine. I don't put on a show, but I do try to be as sincere as I can. I absolutely hate it when I have to apologize and then am told "you need to change the way you _________." Why is it, if someone's hurt by something I said or did, I am expected to change, repent, make amends, etc. but the other person does not have to, nor attempts to do so? I know I have anger issues and such, but ppl these days are so touchy and easily offended by the darndest things, and I'm often encountering ppl in public who overhear me talking, are upset by what I said, and then expect me to apologize and change my ways because *they* don't like it or me.

I've had to give forced apologies to co-workers, in order to maintain peace and harmony in the office. After a certain co-worker gossipped about me, and I in turn did the same, I was "caught" and forced to apologize to her in front of my supervisor, in the supr.'s office. I wasn't really sorry but I was somewhat, because I know gossipping is wrong. (In my heart I felt I was simply venting to others. Little did I realize the co-worker had an extended friends network who reported back everything I did and said to her.) The co-worker offended was a bully to me in the past and I expressed that, and because someone told her that, it upset her and I in turn had to apologize to her in order to "make things right." I remember my supervisor saying firmly, "you've GOT to get along with each other." I had to sit next to this bully while she in turn would slam, bang, and throw things in her anger when nobody else was around, because if I told my supervisor he ignored the problem, and if I told anyone else it'd just come back to haunt me again. I tried to be as sympathetic and compassionate as possible but she would not accept my apology, and then my supr. was asked why don't I just 'say it to her face" and tell her if there's something about her I didn't like. This really hurt me and I tearfully and fearfully said, "because I'm afraid of her." Those tears were genuine but she didn't care. She just went back on another rant about me and how I need to "come to [her] face if I've got a problem with [her]."

Then I had another, different supervisor who, if I did or said something she didn't like, would ignore me, give me the cold shoulder, and treat me disrespectfully until I apologized. I often didn't want to apologize to her, but I did so just to restore peace. Once I did, she proceeded to treat me normally again. She reminded me of my mother, who was verbally and emotionally abusive, as well as manipulative to me for years...both had the same types of temper. If you did/said something to upset mom, you had to apologize, and you had to "mean it". And if you showed tears to either my mom or this supervisor, you were accused of faking it or told "quit yer blattin and bawlin." (Even tho mom isn't as bad as she was, she has still never apologized for the many times she hurt me, and if I even try to tell her how much she has damaged my life, she instead goes to extremes saying I am being mean to an old person. Mom is 87.)

Many of you have already read my post on my experience in dealing with a bratty teenager who mouthed off to me. Looking back, I dealt with the situation horribly, and I admit that. But I have been told I need to apologize. In this instance I feel an apology would do no good, because the teen a) did not apologize, b) was (supposedly) "just kidding", and c) deliberately continued to needle and harass me after the incident. Even tho I used a poor choice of words, and I shouldn't have gotten as upset as I did, I felt as though I was justified in defending myself. In this case the kid was not minding his own business. But, oh well...

so there you have it.

20thcenturyfox
02-12-17, 07:52 PM
Although I did have to endure 1 high-provocation relationship when I was growing up, at least the rest of my environment was a lot more wholesome, and (thank God) I cannot recall a single time in my life when I was ever pressured to apologize to anyone.

Apologies were almost never offered by anyone for anything in my family, and tended to be brushed off as worthless window dressing. I would probably have liked to hear even a bad apology now and then. Whether I ever apologized to anyone for anything as a child I don't recall, though I'm sure I had plenty to apologize for. But for a long time I think the last thing I would have wanted to do when dissatisfied with my own behaviour would have been to admit it to anyone else.

Meanwhile empathy in any form was always music to my ears. I'm ashamed to say that I must have absorbed truckloads of empathy from other people before I ever started feeling...let alone showing... any empathy for anyone else. Luckily, once I started feeling and showing empathy...probably in my late teens...it must have been rewarding because empathy has been easy, plentiful and very rewarding ever since.

The gift of apologizing came along later still, and wasn't smooth at all. I think it started with being embarrassed about something I did and not wanting some special person to think ill of me. All about me, in other words.

But I mainly learned from other people's apologies to me what felt good and what didn't. From there I think I quickly put together a template of what belongs in a good apology if you really want to repair a relationship, and not just smooth things over but actually honour your values and deepen your understanding of each other.

Since then, although I've sometimes struck out with an apology, much more often I've had the very uplifting experience of becoming better friends after doing something shabby and apologizing for it than we were before. So if I sound like I'm evangelizing for apologies, this is why..."I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see."

Fuzzy12
02-12-17, 09:17 PM
Nvm..or I'll end up having to apologise for this post.

:rolleyes:

Wuvmy3kitties
02-13-17, 09:26 AM
wish you didn't feel that way, Fuzzy.

Wuvmy3kitties
02-13-17, 10:07 AM
For the record, I have no problem with apologizing when I'm wrong. In fact, if I find myself struggling with the need to apologize, I try to think it through to see if I did or said something that would need an apology. So I have NO problem with admitting guilt and apologizing. Often, I'll realize it was my fault and I do my best to apologize.

What I have a problem with is apologizing to someone who is emotionally or verbally abusive, who is manipulative or bully-like and wants to control you...and you rebel against them, thus inciting anger, shunning, etc. I'm sick of apologizing to those types.

Little Missy
02-13-17, 11:15 AM
For the record, I have no problem with apologizing when I'm wrong. In fact, if I find myself struggling with the need to apologize, I try to think it through to see if I did or said something that would need an apology. So I have NO problem with admitting guilt and apologizing. Often, I'll realize it was my fault and I do my best to apologize.

What I have a problem with is apologizing to someone who is emotionally or verbally abusive, who is manipulative or bully-like and wants to control you...and you rebel against them, thus inciting anger, shunning, etc. I'm sick of apologizing to those types.

Never! Just smile and leave. If you apologize for not having done anything to apologize for, you are dignifying their behavior and reinforcing that they are allowed to do that you. And it will continue on. Nip it in the bud.

Wuvmy3kitties
02-14-17, 07:06 PM
I try not to apologize, but I feel I need to with my mom, since I'm going to have to care for her once I retire in 3 years. It's kinda sad too, because she pretty much stopped being really manipulative about 4 or 5 years ago. It was still there, but much more toned down. Now, however, it seems to have kicked into high gear again. All I can do is pray for her.

sarahsweets
02-15-17, 05:28 AM
This is a great post 20th century!

I think there are many typed of apologies for different things and reasons. I was and still am sometimes the queen of sorry. It has a lot to do with some of my upbringing and had a lot to do with my self esteem for years. I somehow learned that being sorry meant people would approve of or like me better. It seemed like the better choice to be sorry so I didnt have to feel rejected. This also made some of my true apologies less meaningful if that person was also someone I apologized to alot out of habit.

I work my life around making amends when I can. If I have hurt someone but maybe can see where I was wrong I say something like " I am sorry if I hurt you" and leave it at that. I cant apologize for any acts I committed if I dont think I committed them but I have the empathy to let the other person know they were heard and that I am not the kind of person who hurts people.

When I know I have done wrong, I apologize and own whatever part I may have had in the situation. This is usually happens when I have somewhat knowingly done the wrong thing on purpose like being nasty or mean, deliberately dismissive or sarcastic or plain made a moral mistake that I knew better about it. So I say sorry and try to make it right.
I also make legit mistakes that are wrong but it takes having someone to point them out for me to see that, and I apologize then too.

I had to train myself to stop apologizing for being who I am or asking for what I need. I had to learn that being human doesnt mean I am always going to owe someone an apology. I had to learn that admitting wrongdoing also doesnt mean everyone else involved needs an apology and in general, apologies are not a requirement for meaningful relationships.

I learned that over apologizing was part of my people pleasing. I didnt want someone to be upset even if it had nothing to do with me, so I took ownership of something that wasnt my business in order to make then feel better.

Its more important for apologies to be thoughtful, sincere and warranted then apologies made out of guilt or to patronize me.
My daughter has been late for curfew more times than I would like and she is always sorry and apologizes- yet the same thing still happens again. Those apologies are not thoughtful imo, then are just to make her feel better about breaking the rules. She is 16 and still learning.

Its much better IMO to apologize for something specific and correct or make amends for it then make a blanket apologizes. I think forced apologies are so great because they are prompted by someone else-not the person apologizing.

The most important thing about apologies is this:
Half of the beauty an apology lies in the manner in which it is received.