I recently offended a friend of mine through a conversation I was having with another friend on Facebook. I saw how my other friend was being offensive, but I didn’t think I was. I thought I was on the side of my first friend. So, I took it personally.
Luckily, I didn’t get defensive, and I avoided responding right away. I took some time to reflect on my actions and to see if I could understand my friend’s point of view and why what I was doing was offensive.
Eventually, I came to some conclusions, and I apologized to my friend. It turned out that my conclusions were pretty much on point. I’m including that apology here, so that you can see what you need to include in your written apology.
Hey, thanks for calling me out the other day. Sorry for taking so long to say anything. I took it as an opportunity to self reflect.
The way I see it is that I was expropriating the pain and suffering of LGBTQ people. While I was trying to highlight the struggles they have with coming out, I disrespected them by centring the discussion around me. It was wrong of me to frame it the way I did, using the discrimination, marginalization, oppression, and violence they experience as a foundation for a hypothetical thought experience.
I’m sorry for doing this and for the emotions it created for you.
1. Understand why you were wrong
Saying you were wrong is a good first step; many apologies usually leave this out. That being said, take it a bit further by explaining to the person you’re apologizing to why what you did was wrong.
Explaining why you were wrong requires you to understand why you were wrong. This will force you to reflect on your words and intent, and that reflection will be a good exercise for you.
Once you come to that understanding, being forced to put that into writing will also be a good exercise. It will further increase sensitivity and comprehension. And it will show the person you’re apologizing to that getting this right is important to you.
2. Say you’re sorry
Have you ever had someone apologize to you by saying something like, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” or “I’m sorry if I offended you.”? These are ways people apologize without taking responsibility for their words or actions.
Compare these 3 apologies:
- I’m sorry you feel as though I was joking about things that are important to you.
- I’m sorry if I somehow offended you with what I wrote.
- I’m sorry for doing this and for the emotions it created for you.
In the first apology, the speaker is putting all the responsibility on the person who was offended: they’re trying to secure their innocence. This actually makes their use of “I’m sorry” empty.
The second apology isn’t much better. It may even be worse. Not only does the speaker absolve themself of personal responsibility, they aren’t even recognizing that they did anything wrong.
The third apology, in contrast, focuses on the author’s actions. It recognizes that they did do something wrong and that it negatively impacted the person they’re apologizing to. By focusing on their own actions, the author puts the responsibility for those actions on themself.
So, when you’re writing an apology, remember those two things: understand why you were wrong and say you’re sorry.
Apologizing is a great way to ease tensions. Getting defensive and argumentative when called out on something you said may escalate the situation. Apologizing helps you diffuse that escalation and avoid damaging a relationship. Plus, it shows others that you are willing to put aside pride and show some courage.
Do you have techniques that you use to write proper apologies? Let me know in the comments below.
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