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Excuse me? Was that an apology?

Apologies, Regrets, and Justifications
The Art of the Apology
Published on May 26, 2010 : 19 comments

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[I do some of my best thinking in the smallest room of our home. Things I need to let go of usually come out the other end]

I’ve been thinking about apologies. Like a good computer addict, I Googled “types of apologies” out of curiosity. I have been wondering about why I sometimes apologize when “excuse me” is more accurate. At the top of the Google search it said “3,330,000 results.” OK, I am not reading through ALL of that!— sorry. 

This must be an important topic with so much available about apologies on the internet. Glancing through the results, I notice that some indicate that there are four types of apologies and others say there are seven types. So, I started to read some of them. 

One of the “types” of apologies I came across, in my opinion, is worse than no apology. I’m calling it the “I’m sorry (NOT)” apology. When people say to me “I’m sorry you feel that way”, it can feel like a polite response they have learned rather than a sincere apology. Another phrase that rubs me the wrong way is, “if I have offended you, then I am sorry.” “IF!?!” Hmmmmm… readers, you are right. I am on a bit of a soap box!

I really value someone’s honesty over a polite apology. If we can work the ‘issue’ out, who really needs the apology any way? I am reading the book The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. It came out awhile ago. He was the Carnegie Mellon professor dying of pancreatic cancer who gave a last lecture (they are recorded) as a way to have a connection and be a ‘Dad’ to his kids.

Great book! It has a nice little chapter on apologies (page 161 if you have the book). If you don’t have the book you can read a summary of his thoughts online. Obviously this book got me to thinking about ways to say you’re sorry.

The Four Types of Apologies

Eventually, I settled on this website and article by Tammy Lenski and her explanation of four types of apologies:

1. I’m sorry. I’m at fault. This one’s the big kahuna, the apology that’s usually the most difficult to give and the one that makes us feel most vulnerable. It’s the kind of apology associated with an action that had tragic or predictable consequences.

2. I’m sorry. I regret it. This is the type of apology I [Tammy] frequently hear requested in my mediation work, and it’s often mistaken for the “I’m at fault” type. People requesting this type of apology are asking the other person to acknowledge the impact of a word or deed, even when that impact wasn’t intended and may have had benign intent. Examples of regret apologies include, “I’m so sorry my actions had that impact on you. I didn’t understand that until now and I regret that.” This is the kind of apology the person in the first paragraph was seeking; she wanted acknowledgment that this had been a time-consuming and frustrating experience for her (though, of course, that’s not quite how she initially said it).

3. I’m sorry. I sympathize. This type of apology shows compassion, understanding, sympathy or empathy for a situation. “I’m so sorry to hear of your mother’s illness.”

4. I’m sorry. But not really. This, like the apology offered in type #1, is an insincere attempt. This type can escalate the situation further because the receiver understands it’s not a real apology. “I’m sorry you feel that way” is this kind of ineffective apology.

So, now I am thinking there must be “rules” for apologizing. Guess what: I Googled How to Apologize and 11,600,00 results pop up!  Wow, people must really be nervous about/stink at apologies! Don’t worry—I am not going to list out the rules here. If you are interested, you can read about how men and women relate differently and the rules of how to do apologize at Psychology Today’s website.

Bandaged EggWhere does all this information leave us? Well, for me, it is not that complicated. You have to mean it and you have to take action. I am a self-employed graphic designer. I make mistakes. When a client is upset, sincerity and action are so much more important than all the rules of how to apologize. Letting them know how bad I feel and that they are very important to me AND asking or suggesting how I can correct things is the only way to go.

Well, you know what I have been thinking about in the smallest room of our home—what do you think about in that room?

Feel free to share your stories and of course give me a difficult time!

AnnDbugzAnn Troe (@AnnieDoodlebugz) is graphic designer and illustrator. http://AnnGraphics.com http://AnniesDoodlebugz.com

Comments

Dad (not verified) says:

May 26, 2010 : 6 years 18 weeks ago

Dad's picture

Well, Ann, I think your articles are getting better and better. I like this one very much but it makes me wonder what sort of appology I got when I chastised you about your language in a couple of the early articles.

Multi tasking is the thing these days so I’m sure your peers approve. In the old days we had little technology to accomplish that and sometimes the smallest room was really a cold/hot space depending on the weather, how well the door fit and how close the boards of the sidewalls fit together.

Keep writing

Dad

cpooschke says:

May 27, 2010 : 6 years 17 weeks ago

cpooschke's picture

Yes, most people SUCK at apologizing! I say, if you don’t really FEEL sorry, then don’t bother saying it! I LOVE Randy’s
“last lecture,” although I haven’t read the book; just watched the video online. I remember him mentioning that you should inquire as to how you can make the situation right, and I think that’s a good point. If you’re TRULY sorry, then you definitely want to sacrifice whatever is needed to make it better (if possible). Also, I have trouble believing an apology when a person continues to commit the same acts again and again, so if you’re TRULY sorry…perhaps you should throw in, “it won’t happen again.” :)

AnnDbugz says:

May 27, 2010 : 6 years 17 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

Hi guys!
Dad - Your comments are always great! Thanks,
Christy - I agree! the behavior does need to change ;-)

Thanks so much for reading!

Jo Lynch says:

May 27, 2010 : 6 years 17 weeks ago

Jo Lynch's picture

Ann, I agree with your Dad… your articles are getting better and better… This one is what I call a thinker. :) Great topic, gets us all to talking.

In my opinion, I think one must be in an advanced age to truly understand how they may have hurt someone by action or word… When we’re young we nearly always think we are right and that that’s the only way it is. We’re right, you’re wrong and that’s the black and white of it. In the last few years, I’ve more easily found the ability to “fess up” if I have done something wrong and to make it right, or make amends… Also at this advanced age, I find the fight isn’t usually that important anymore, and one of the most common phrases we hear around our house is “you’re right”… LOL, so one must grow into the apology thing too..

One of my favorite quotes these days would end the need for apology…

The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway~ Henry Boye

Thanks for making us “think”…

Off to my smallest room to see if I can think about what interesting topic Miss Ann Troe is going to introduce next.. :)

Great article, well written and a good subject for all to think about.

Jo Whimzicals.com

AnnDbugz says:

May 27, 2010 : 6 years 17 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

Hey Jo!
Wonderful comments! Yes, I Really agree that things are not black and white - but so many shades of gray! Any relationship is so much easier/closer/better if both parties can see the other persons point of view. It is wonderful when you can find a nice middle ground for those involved. I heard read somewhere that if you are pointing the finger at someone… there are 3 fingers pointing back at you.

Thanks for your input!

brother (not verified) says:

May 28, 2010 : 6 years 17 weeks ago

brother's picture

Why are you spending so much time in your broom closet? What is in there that is so inspiring?

AnnDbugz says:

May 28, 2010 : 6 years 17 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

Hi Brother!
To FUNNY! I sit in the bathroom and “think” ;-) I suppose you read sports illustrated.
Thanks for reading! - your sister.

AnnDbugz says:

May 28, 2010 : 6 years 17 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

Huh, Dad….
(readers, see the very first comment above)….
I didn’t apologize for THINKING bad words in my first article: “2 Honk Morning”. I didn’t apologize for typing characters like these “!!$#!@” as swear words in my article ” Fore Letter Words”….
I didn’t apologize right away when you posted your comment above,
BUT, FINALLY, I have decided that “IF I have offended you, then I am sorry”.
 ;-D

What do you think of my apology?
Love,
Your favorite (and only) daughter.

Dad (not verified) says:

May 28, 2010 : 6 years 17 weeks ago

Dad's picture

Well….. Favorite and Only Daughter

Guys when they apologize sometimes acompany the words with flowers or candy. That does not appeal to me but basic foods like pie, cake, brownies, cookies are good. ;-)

Susan Baird (not verified) says:

June 1, 2010 : 6 years 17 weeks ago

Susan Baird's picture

Such a great topic, Ann!

This is especially critical for business folks and those in customer service. A good apology can never be part of the call script, because it sounds artificial. Here’s my definition of an authentic apology:
—it begins by allowing the offended person to vent their anger or hurt feelings or disappointment, while you demonstrate that you’re truly listening
—next, (and ideally face-to-face, depending on the nature of the offense) the apology should be delivered contritely, specifically mentioning the misdeed and how you understand it affected the other party (e.g. I am really sorry that what I did made you feel unappreciated.)
—then, you ask what you could do to make it right, and then follow-through on the negotiated solution
—the apology ends with an attempt to begin rebuilding the relationship

A sincere apology is the fastest way to diffuse an angry situation and the best chance we have to retain our customers, and perhaps even create a more avid fan!

Keep up the great work, Ann! And keep up with the wonderful critique, Ann’s dad!

mamashepp says:

June 2, 2010 : 6 years 17 weeks ago

mamashepp's picture

#4 is the apology you always get when you make little kids apologize right after they’ve done something wrong. They aren’t sorry—they hit that other kid on purpose and, furthermore, they feel much better having done it. I decided early on that I wanted to teach my kids to only apologize when they felt that way—I pulled them out of the situation, got them calmed down and then talked to them. Generally, they did feel sorry after they calmed down.

AnnDbugz says:

June 2, 2010 : 6 years 17 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

Hey Lisa!
You are so right! This is such a rich topic…. I only just scratched the surface.
I really appreciate your comments, look forward to hearing from you again ;-)

Any thoughts on what surface I should scratch next?

mamashepp says:

June 2, 2010 : 6 years 17 weeks ago

mamashepp's picture

What about the people we turn into when we get in our cars? Including the fact that we don’t seem to think people can see us!

AnnDbugz says:

June 2, 2010 : 6 years 17 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

You mean like nose pickers and road rage!… Great idea!!
Thanks so much!
 Ann

mamashepp says:

June 2, 2010 : 6 years 17 weeks ago

mamashepp's picture

Exactly the things I was thinking of!

AnnDbugz says:

June 2, 2010 : 6 years 17 weeks ago

AnnDbugz's picture

Follow me on twitter so I can get to know you better ;-) There is a link next to my photo/bio under the article…

Thanks again!

mamashepp says:

June 2, 2010 : 6 years 17 weeks ago

mamashepp's picture

Done! I was hoping there was a twitter feed from here but I see we just have to do it the old-fashioned way!

mamashepp says:

June 2, 2010 : 6 years 17 weeks ago

mamashepp's picture

Oh duh—never mind—it’s right at the top. I’m really not this ditzy!

CherylT (not verified) says:

July 1, 2010 : 6 years 13 weeks ago

CherylT's picture

Thanks for submitting to The Carnival of Rants. Unfortunately, could not include this article in this edition. You did not add my site’s blogroll nor link to my blog. Also, this article, while very nicely written, does not meet the criteria of being a complaint. You can always submit again for the next edition, providing that you correct these problems.

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