When you make an apology you are actually promising that, if given the opportunity to do it over, you would do it differently.
An apology has two parts and includes two ‘I‘s. I am sorry that I… The first part is the admission and the second is the accountability. The second ‘I‘ is the most important. ‘I’m sorry that your feelings are hurt.’ Is not an apology and “I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings,’ is.
An apology should never contain the word ‘but’ either, because ‘but’ implies contradiction or it is flat-out dismissive. According to Dr. Phil ‘but’ means forget everything I just said. That goes for although and however too.
The weight of an apology is based solely on the impact your words or actions have on another person or party. You don’t apologize to absolve yourself of guilt or blame it is an affirmation of apathy that helps someone else’s healing.
Let’s say you bump into a random shopper at the mall. You weren’t looking, either were they and the two of you collide. Other than the obvious startle, no harm has been done to either you or the stranger. Socially balanced people say sorry, maybe even excuse me and go on their way. But what if that same bump causes them to drop their fragile parcel or they are sent off kilter and fall down a flight of stairs? Then this would warrant a greater apology, unless of course, you are the kind of person who would dart away as quickly as possible. In which case I have no idea why you are even bothering to read this because the likelihood of you apologizing or being accountable for anything is slim and I hope that you are wealthy and have a good lawyer.
The point is that the bump on your part did not change. The outcome forced upon the stranger did. Ergo, the apology is dependent on their experience not yours.
It’s like the law of cheating. You are not governed by your own law but the law of your partner. If my husband does not feel that an on-line affair is cheating but I do (please note my deliberate use of ‘but’), my husband does not get to have an on-line affair. Well, not if he wants to stay married to me that is. It is simple. It’s about respecting someone else’s boundaries and honouring them.
When you add a ‘but’ to an apology you are explaining why you did what you did. This will more often than not come across as an excuse or a way of casting blame onto the one you have wronged. This therefore makes the apology redundant especially if you failed to assume any responsibility.
Lastly, if you are not sorry and do not care how your words or actions affect others, than do not apologize. Avoid sounding disingenuous or worse sounding like the compassionate person you are not. Instead, be true to the tar hole you are and ignore the basic human response of remorse after hurting another. Perhaps take the short survey on ‘Am I a Sociopath. ‘
On the other hand, you have no control over whether your apology will be accepted. If it is not, please point said person in the direction of this article and let them know that their response has hurt your feelings.
So let us recap. Three steps to a solid proper apology.
1- Admission ‘I am sorry….’ Followed immediately by
2- Accountability …’that I’ (insert violation here)
3- That’s it! No buts!