Apologize well or don't at all


Being able to apologize is important, difficult and not a get out of jail free card.
Do it well or don't do it at all.

Here's my view on what qualifies an apology as sincere.

Short version

How to apologise

  1. Admit in detail what you did that you yourself consider wrong.
  2. Explain how you will take measures to avoid committing the same mistake again.
  3. Actually take the measures.

Don't include the word but "I'm sorry i called you a bitch but you did X and that was really rude".

X may have triggered your insult but that is not something that should be part of your apology.
Your apology should be limited to what you think you did wrong and how you will avoid repeating it in the future.
Your apology should not include information about wrongdoings on the other side.

Long version

Promises should be rare

After you've made a mistake you honestly regret it may be tempting to make a promise to never repeat that mistake, but before you do you need to be confident that you can keep that promise.

Be careful about making promises, don't make them for every tiny mistake you make.
It's ok to say that you can't promise but will do your best to not repeat your mistake.

When you make a promise people should be able to count on it as a guarantee that it will be kept regardless of circumstances or how other people act.

If you promise your wife that you will never call her stupid then that includes situations where she forgets your birthday, calls you a fucking idiot or forgets to turn the tap off when she leaves the apartment.
Other peoples actions can never be an excuse for you breaking your promise.

Apologize when you apologize, argue when you argue

Your wife tells you she will clean during the day and you tell her you will cook dinner.
You come home exhausted from work and your house looks like a disaster.
You decide you're not going to cook since she didn't clean.

Your wife gets home and is sad because you didn't cook so you start an apology
"I'm sorry I didn't cook but you didn't clean like you said you would and it's not fair for you to expect me to do my part if you're not doing yours".
The logic here may be sound but this is not an apology, this is an argument.
You're not admitting you dropped the ball, you're using her mistake as an excuse.

Maybe you strongly feel that you shouldn't cook if she didn't clean, be honest about that then and don't go down the fake apology route. Go straight to an argument.

Be clear with yourself when you're looking to argue and when you're looking to apologize.
Don't mix them up.

Less apologies, better apologies

I'm sorry I'm late, the bus ...
I'm sorry I'm late, the traffic ...
I'm sorry I'm late, my alarm ...
I'm sorry I'm late, X Y Z ...

If this is you, then you don't mean what you're saying. You're not sorry.
You keep showing up late and not fixing your behavior.

Let's say you commute to work and as you're standing at the train station you find out all trains are cancelled today and you have to take a replacement bus and this will make you late.
If you don't feel like you did anything wrong here that's fine, but then you shouldn't apologize.

Apologies should be used when you did something you believe was wrong and are going to take actions to prevent that from happening again.

Unless you feel like you made a mistake and in the future are going to always be on the extra early train to avoid being late then it's better to just not apologize.

Apologies should only happen when you truly feel you did something wrong.

Words are not enough

Saying the right words during an apology is important, but there's more to an apology than words.

An apology consists of words and an implicit understanding that you will do your best to avoid making the same mistake again.
If you find yourself consistently making the same apology then you're either lying when you're saying the words or not putting effort into changing your behavior.

An apology consists of words & actions.