20 10 / 2014
You’ve done something wrong. You want to make it right, as much as you can. Some people I’ve talked to believe that the apology is merely a social nicety with no actual meaning behind it. (Why is it always other autistic people who assume that social conventions aren’t there for a damn good reason?) Anyway, you want to apologize, and you want to do it right, but you don’t know how.
A lot of people don’t know there are wrong ways of apologizing. But just about everyone has been on the receiving end of a passive-aggressive non-apology. Here are some examples of how not to apologize:
"I’m sorry you feel that way." The more that it’s uttered in a high-pitched, ultra-sweet-sounding voice, the worse this apology is. There are times when you want to say that you’re sorry (as in, unhappy) that someone feels a certain way, but I’d urge you to never use this phrasing if you can help it. Because it makes it sound like the only problem is not that you did something wrong, but rather how the person feels about it. And that if they just felt better about it, then what you did wouldn’t be so wrong.
"I’m sorry I exposed you to potentially life-threatening germs when you were on immune suppressants. But you have to understand, I needed you right then. I needed someone to talk to and the person I usually talk to was busy. So I had to come down to your apartment and talk, even if I was contagious. Because I needed you." This one is basically an apology that says "Yeah, sorry I almost got you killed, but I needed someone to talk to so that’s okay." it’s saying that her "need" to talk to someone trumps my need to stay alive, and that’s going to really piss me off. (In fact, it led me to write a sign on my door that remains there to this day, telling sick people to stay the fuck out of my apartment. Only in nicer words.
The first one was bad because it made the problem into the other person’s feelings about what you did to them, rather than about what you did to them in the fist place. The second one is wrong on several levels. One is that it shows her priorities about me don’t include keeping me alive, at least not when she “needs” someone to talk to right then and there. And that I can expect her to violate my direction on the matter again, and again, and again, because in her mind coming to my apartment is always justified if she wants to enough. The other problem is that she basically sits around making excuses for her behavior instead of apologizing for her behavior.
I’ve found that a good formula for an apology looks something like this:
"I’m sorry that I __________. I understand that it caused you trouble by ____________. I will do my best not to do it again."
That includes several important parts:
1. An admission of remorse.
2. A description of what you did wrong, showing that you understand what you did wrong.
3. An explanation of the trouble you think it caused the person, showing an understanding of how your actions affect others.
4.. A resolution not to do it again. I always put that I’ll do my best, because I know nobody’s perfect and I don’t want to make a promise that I can’t keep.
In some situations, though, you won’t have time for such a long apology. At that point, you can say things like:
"I’m sorry." Short, simple, to the point.
"I’m sorry I _______." Still contains an explanation, but isn’t going to be as long-winded as the first version.
"I’m sorry.. I’ll do my best to keep from doing that again." Again, contains some elements from the longer apology, but not enough to make it very long.
"I’m sorry. I know I affected you like ________." Same as the others, it takes only one part of the longer formula and is therefore shorter.
Sometimes it’s okay to say “I didn’t mean to,” but be careful with that because it can easily slide into excuse-making.
Generally, a good apology will have you feeling guilt and remorse as you say it, or as you rehearse it, or as you recall it later. That is fine. That is what those emotions are for — for making you see you’ve done something wrong and doing your best to change what you are doing, so that you won’t do it again, or not as badly.
A genuine apology will also have a level of uncertainty to it. A lot of people don’t know that they are trying to control other people’s actions, by the words they choose. But it really comes out in an apology. Everyone wants to write the perfect apology that will make the person forgive them and everything will be happy ever after. Real life doesn’t work that way.
An apology — a real apology — is taking a risk. You are admitting that you have wronged someone. You are aware that they have the right to react to you by accepting your apology, or by not accepting it. And if they don’t accept it, they might do so in a very angry, confrontational way that you don’t like. But they have a right to do that. They are the wronged party. They are under no obligation to accept your apology, to accept you into their lives, or any of that. They don’t have a right to be abusive towards you, but they do have a right to be angry and yell at you. You have to be ready for any of these possibilities, when you apologize. Because an apology is a statement of your own remorse, it is not a way of manipulating someone into being nice to you again.
Important note: There are times when people are going to push for you to apologize, when you have done nothing wrong. How you respond to these situations depends on a lot of factors. Sometimes it’s a valid decision to apologize anyway, even though you know that what you did wasn’t wrong. Other times it’s a valid decision to refuse to apologize at all, on principle.
If you apologize when you haven’t actually done anything wrong, the main reason for doing so is to smooth over social relations. There are times when maintaining good social relations with someone are more important than the strict accuracy about who is in the wrong and who is in the right. And in those situations, you might want to apologize. Even though you don’t believe you did anything wrong, it is still terrible for you to say something like “I’m sorry you feel that way.” You should still follow some basic formula for a good apology, even if it’s just “I’m sorry.”
If you don’t want to apologize, there’s s few ways you can do it. You can ignore the request for an apology altogether. Just don’t say anything about the matter at all. You can explain your side of the story, while stating that you’ve done nothing that you feel warrants an apology. You can say that you really wish you could apologize, but under the circumstances you don’t feel comfortable with the idea of lying to them by apologizing for something you didn’t do, think, or say. There’s all kinds of ways to handle that kind of situation.
Sometime a person demanding an apology in that manner is sincerely hurt and wants you to apologize. But other times, they are a bully. They are a bully who is using something they claim you did (whether you did it or not) in order to show everyone how, in not apologizing, you have no remorse for your actions and are a terrible person. They may be part of a group of people manipulating you. In this case, you don’t want to apologize at all, you want to ignore the whole thing (or do “I’m okay, you’re mean” if you can’t ignore it). Because anything you say, they’ll use against you one way or another.
But a good apology, in a situation where an apology is truly needed, is worth its weight in gold. Its social function is to show the other person that you understand you have done them wrong, that you understand what you have done wrong, that you understand that you have hurt them and possibly how you have hurt them, and that you intend to do your best to keep from doing it again. Those are extremely meaningful things, they are not meaningless just because they are social.
Also, there are many good ways to apologize that aren’t covered here. I just picked my favorite way to apologize because it seems to work pretty well.
TL;DR: A good apology should leave you feeling uneasy about the outcome, because you are not saying this to control someone and force them to accept your apology, you are doing this to express remorse and an understanding of what you’ve done wrong. My favorite formula for a good apology runs something like. ‘I’m sorry that I __________. I understand that it caused you trouble by ____________. I will do my best not to do it again.” Try to avoid things like ‘I’m sorry you feel that way” that make the other person’s feelings the problem, rather than your actions as the problem. Also, there are situations where people will press you to apologize when you really shouldn’t. At that point you have to make a decision as to whether to smooth things over by apologizing, or whether to refuse to apologize, on principle. If someone is bullying you into apologizing it’s probably best not to. If they’re sincere, it’s up to you.
20 10 / 2014
tumblr is an extremely confusing place because of the way SJ Trends operate, like, i’ll sense that a trend is vaguely wrong and then someone will make a post pointing out how wrong it is and i’ll be like YES but then people will jump on the bandwagon and swing to the other extreme and and the posts will slowly turn from reasonable to fuCKING BIZARRE and it’s like wait what hold up
like the gauge for ‘ideological center’ is way out of whack
20 10 / 2014
So I might never, in fact, have heard an ally claim that they were just as oppressed as the group they were acting in ally-hood to.
But twice today, I was lectured by allies on proper terminology regarding minorities to which they do not belong, but I do.
I don’t blame those individuals so much as that I think there is something rotten in the state of social justice discourse.
Where people have picked up a message that whatever set of rhetoric they’ve learned is the Right way to talk about these things, but actually the way it’s being used is obscuring a whole lot of human complexity and that personal and emotional history is not always so convenient to argumentation.
20 10 / 2014
Please don’t reblog posts about runaways, please respect their right to leave a situation they don’t want, yes this applies to children, yes this applies to disabled people, thank you.
this also applies to people who are stated to be “missing,” not runaways, unless you know, personally, that they are actually missing
20 10 / 2014
Know what I like to do? Blog about books! Know what I can’t shut up about? The fact that my wedding is next weekend! As my followers, maybe someday you will get married, maybe you’ll help a loved one get married, or maybe you’re opposed to the entire institution and want hard data to back your arguments up! Whatever the case, here’s a writeup of some of the books I’ve found helpful…
One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding. This is one I’d recommend even if you have no plans to get married, because it’s a darkly fascinating look into how bloated and messed up the American bridal industry is. From a sociological standpoint, it’s super interesting; from an engaged standpoint, it’s like washing your face with cold water as you realize how much of what you think you want or need has been dictated relentlessly.
I Do But I Don’t. Another indictment of the bridal industry, this time in the form of a personal account. From rings and dresses purchased for the sake of family rather than personal desire to a nightmarish bachelorette party that shines an uncomfortable light on the practice of sexually embarrassing brides-to-be, this book might make you scale down, elope, or just take a deep breath and remind yourself of what it is you actually want.
Miss Manners’ Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding. Miss Manners is a bit set in her ways (disapproving of black wedding dresses and personalized vows) but she’s great for simultaneously waking you up and calming you down. No, you don’t “need” wedding favors. No, you don’t “need” to recoup your investment via only registering for expensive gifts. No, you don’t “need” to go into debt. All you need to do to throw a nice wedding is to get married and be a gracious host to your loved ones.
Offbeat Bride. So now we’ve covered what you don’t have to do- what about what you want to do? The website is a major time-sink for me (and will undoubtedly be so after I get married- the fashion! the stories! the shopping advice!) but the book came first. Ariel Meadow Stallings is a super-charming writer, and she’s here to cheer your vision on, no matter how wacky or simple it may be. Even if you’re going for a traditional church wedding, her advice on constructing it is valuable (and she’s not here to judge how “offbeat” it is- as she says, engaged women don’t need another voice telling them they’re not good enough!)
The New Jewish Wedding. Anita Diamant is a bit controversial in the world of Jewish lit (her novel The Red Tent seems to make people either swoon with love or seethe with rage, with little in between.) Whatever you think of her fiction, though, this book is a great guide to studying the various aspects of the Jewish wedding, and working out what you want yours to be like.
Viking Answer Lady. Okay, it’s a website, not a book. But if any of you are time-travelled eighth shield maidens looking to legally lock down your favorite shepherd, look no further!