Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How to apologize properly

When interacting with people in real life, some people have a slight misunderstanding about how to apologize to someone properly.

(By the way, this post wasn't prompted by anything that has happened to me recently. I have simply been thinking about it. This kind of situation has happened to me in the past several times, though.)

When someone wants to apologize to someone else, for example because they had an argument or the person making the apology acted in a very inconsiderate manner, a relatively common way that people do this is to first apologize and then ask something like "friends?" or "are we ok?" or something similar, and often accompanied with an expectation of shaking hands or whatever.

They usually do this with good intentions. They want to apologize for the negative thing they were involved with and want for the relationship to return to normal.

However, they have misunderstood a bit how this kind of apology should be done. You don't go to someone that's annoyed or mad at you, apologize, and then immediately expect them to reciprocate. While usually not intentional, the act of expecting an immediate reciprocation kind of nullifies the apology, and puts unfair pressure on the other person and is, in fact, inconsiderate.

If someone feels bad or insulted, it's often not something that can be just erased like that, with a simple apology. Expecting them to do that on the spot is unrealistic and inconsiderate because it does not take into account the other person's feelings. What's worse, expecting them to immediately reciprocate can cause feelings of guilt on them, if they really can't get over it that fast. (If they respond positively, they will feel guilt because it will not be completely honest. Not responding back positively can feel even worse. In either case, the sentiment will be very negative.)

When you truly want to apologize to someone, you don't expect anything back. You just say your apology and leave it at that. You have to understand that the other person may require some time to sort things out and get over their feelings. Putting pressure on them and making them feel guilty for not immediately reciprocating is not the correct way of apologizing to someone. Immediately expecting everything to be ok is unrealistic and unfair. On the contrary, you should expect everything to not be ok immediately, and instead give it time. That's the considerate and polite thing to do.

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