How to apologize, yes….really.

Apologizing for dummies.

Who the hell would need this, you ask? Well in my experience, a great deal of the population. People suck, and often the first response of people to realizing they fucked up is a child-like attack on the “victim” and/or random innocents.  Needless to say, misdirected rage over your own stupidity doesn’t an apology make.

You’ve likely experienced it, or even done it yourself. For example, ever have someone go through a stop sign and you evade them and when you honk they rage at you like you just handed out live grenades to their children for trick or treat? Yeah, that.

Admitting they’re wrong is THAT hard for some people. They would rather escalate it, possibly even to violence and look even more moronic. So much for the challenge of improving yourself.

This is poorly written and lengthy, but keep in mind this general practice has worked for me essentially 100% of the time.

So, here we go. A quick guide to not being a jackass….A.      Assess the situation:

 1.       Are you guilty?

The first thing you have to do is objectively figure out if you are the guilty party. Sometimes this is ridiculously easy. Do you FEEL guilty? That’s usually a pretty big clue. Guilt is horribly unpleasant, but serves a real purpose. Your own mind is saying you did wrong and is going to make you suffer for it, and very importantly make you remember it, so you don’t make the same mistake in the future. Forgiveness goes a long way toward relieving guilt.

If no noticeable guilt, just go over it step by step. What did you do, should you have done it? Ect. Most importantly, do you care at all. If not, might as well just resume your day. This means either you’re a horrible person, or you didn’t do anything bad, or you just don’t give a damn. In that case stop here and expect some possible friction with those people from then on.

 2.       How bad was it?

 Did you accidently step on someone’s toe, or did you drive the tank you promised them you wouldn’t touch over their Labrador retriever and into their living room? How big is this event to them? Not you. Them.

Smashing some figurines off a shelf may be no big deal to you, but what if those figurines were the last surviving mementos of their tragically lost grandmother given on her deathbed? Useless crap to you, irreplaceable treasure to them.

 3.       Mistake, or pattern?

Is this a onetime mistake, or something that has crept up several times and caused a great deal of conflict? Like a judge with a first time offender or their 5th arrest for the same thing, the first time might be fairly easy but subsequent times “oops, sorry” is unlikely to be taken seriously.

If it’s a first time scenario, you have a much better chance of success. If you’ve done the same thing repeatedly knowing the effect on them, you will have to work much harder to convince them, IF you can at all. If you can’t convince them the same thing won’t happen the same way just as it previously has, it may be game over for obvious reasons.

If you’ve stabbed someone on two separate occasions, odds are they’re not going to just stand there again when you run at them with a knife.  Why shouldn’t they EXPECT you will stab them?

 B.      The Hard Part

 1.       Apologize, sincerely or not at all.

If you’re not actually sorry, don’t bother. Just leave them alone. Apologizing the wrong way can add to the problem, or drastically ramp up it’s adversarial nature.

If you ARE sorry, apologize with sincerity. Don’t hide your guilt if you have it. That guilt is actually the best thing you have going for you. Revealing your guilt, and the emotion, is far more effective than what seems like a corporate PR statement put together to create the illusion of caring.

Admit what you did, how you feel it was wrong, what you SHOULD have done, and potentially risky, why you did what you did. You may have a real reason they might find justified it. But be very careful there, it’s very easy to undermine the previous effort if you start shifting blame or nitpicking.

Do NOT make bullshit excuses, bury the guilt, or become hostile. Doing so will ADD to the problem.

Most situations are dealt with at this point if done right. Step 2 still isn’t a bad idea if you’re willing.

 2.       When sorry is not enough.sorry

If dealing with a particularly sensitive subject or repeated issue, the apology itself probably isn’t enough to earn forgiveness but merely step one on the path. Also, even if step one resolved the situation, completing step two when it’s not expected will really knock home the point that you were wrong and really care.

At this point, what you really have to do is show effort. Show them you were wrong by doing what you can to correct it. With a good apology, and whatever damage done corrected, you’re usually good to go.

 If you can right whatever wrong caused the whole situation, that’s the obvious step. If that’s not possible, can you do something they would consider better? If not, what about something not quite as good but more of it that’s likely to be appreciated? Get creative if you have to. Just remember, you are fighting the importance to THEM. Not the value you place on it.

What about something entirely unrelated they would appreciate? Although it sounds cheesy, do things to turn their frown upside down. If it’s small and you’re fighting a big battle, it may have to be quite a few small things before you make any real progress convincing them you aren’t more of a threat than a friend or loved one. The idea is to demonstrate you care and make that thought more prevalent in their mind than what caused it all.

Some will try to “negotiate” a settlement like it’s a court case. For personal relationships this is not really a good idea. This gives them the impression you just want it to go away and with as little effort as possible for you. It’s pretty…..cold. For something that could actually turn into a court case, it makes sense.

My preferred method is to go big and see what happens. If they are important to me, I go big and just do it. It will either work, or they will still want me gone. But usually it works. It’s hard to ignore a seriously big effort put forth with no guarantee of success. It is obvious and undeniable caring to do something for someone with potentially zero gain for yourself.  If it doesn’t work, I know I did all I could to fix it. And that itself will reduce guilt substantially.

Don’t make it worse! If you promise shit to help solve the problem and then don’t come through…….you just reassured them you can’t be trusted. Might as well tell them it was all their fault anyway, since you’re fucking it up might as well go all the way.

 3.       All else has failed, what now?

Not much I’m afraid. If you reach this step and there is no resolution, either you skipped steps, did them badly, really really pissed someone off, didn’t care, or are dealing with someone even more rigid than I am.

At this point all you can do is accept it. Don’t be an ass about it, remember what and who caused it, and learn from it.


There you have it. This process has worked extremely well for me, hopefully you can get something useful from it.