How to Apologize When you Hurt Someone
Apologizing seems easy.
But it’s an intricate process.
An intricate process that is easy to mess up.
It’s easy to mess up an apology because it requires emotional intelligence.
Aka: a tamed ego.
Also, it’s very easy to mess up an apology when someone was shamed into it.
They didn’t really mean it.
So after the apology, the apologizer goes back to their initial behaviors.
Throughout this piece, you will learn the incorrect way to apologize.
The correct way to apologize.
And what to do if someone doesn’t accept your apology.
Let’s start from the beginning.
The Incorrect Way to Apologize
The incorrect way to apologize is to:
Apologize, then provide a justification.
Some things require an explanation.
That’s the purpose of science.
Beautiful explanations that shed light on how the universe works.
Others things don’t require an explanation.
It’s best to simply observe the entity for its beauty.
Then there are moments where a justification is confused as an explanation.
The 2 seem similar but are different.
Imagine that John stole from his brother, Jack.
Jack has a lot of money.
John was caught with his hand in the piggy bank.
So he apologizes.
John is like:
‘Hey Jack, I’m sorry.’
- That’s the apology.
Then he follows up with:
‘But I had to steal because you have so much money and I don’t.’
- That’s the justification.
‘Hey Armani, what if John was justifying himself to give more context?’
We will get to that shortly.
But understand that there is a big difference between an explanation and a justification.
An explanation is when you try to be as objective as possible.
Through that objectivity, you give more context to the act.
While justification is more self-serving.
It tries to minimize the harm of the act.
The Correct Way to Apologize
Before I share how to apologize, it’s important to know when to apologize.
Apologize when you are remorseful of the act.
This may seem obvious.
But it’s not that obvious in practice.
Many people apologize because they think that’s what they are supposed to do.
They have little remorse for their behavior.
The other person is angry at them.
To make this situation die down, the apologizer fake apologizes.
Other times, people apologize because they are getting mobbed.
The mob tracks them down, and the apologizer bends the knee.
Once again, a fake apology ensues.
Apologize when there is genuine remorse.
Say sorry + What you are sorry for
Imagine that Jesse gets really drunk.
He flips out on this girl named Jessica.
The next day, Jesse apologizes:
‘Hey Jessica, I’m sorry.’
- That’s the apology.
Then he clearly states what he is sorry for:
‘I had too much to drink and I acted like an ass. I’m sorry for putting you in that position.’
- That’s the explanation.
Jesse took accountability.
That is another big difference between an explanation and a justification.
The person who is justifying is trying to avoid accountability.
While the person explaining is taking full accountability.
Why Someone Doesn’t Accept Your Apology
There are 2 reasons for why someone doesn’t accept your apology:
- The hurt is too deep.
- It took too long to apologize.
There are recorded court cases where a killer apologizes to the victim’s family.
Then the family is like:
‘We don’t accept your apology. Rot in hell.’
This is because the hurt is too deep.
The killer is remorseful and is explaining rather than justifying.
Still….the pain is too deep.
Other times, a person doesn’t accept the apology because they closed that chapter.
The pain has healed and reopening the wound would be annoying at this stage.
Imagine that you stole money from a business partner.
The business partner trusted you.
He tried to contact you for years to get his money back.
Until one day, the phone stopped ringing.
More years pass by and now you’re a changed man.
You have been studying spirituality and your spiritual coach is like:
‘You need to correct your past mistakes, grasshopper.’
So you track down your business partner and are like:
‘I’m sorry for x, y, and z.’
At this point, the business partner has moved on.
It’s too late.
Apology not accepted.
What to Do When Someone Doesn’t Accept your Apology
If someone accepts your apology, then it’s best to adjust your behavior.
Otherwise, it shows little remorse.
Let’s say someone doesn’t accept your apology though, what then?
Well, move on buddy…
At least you tried.
In the real world, all apologies aren’t accepted.
Use this as a learning opportunity to prevent the same mistake from happening again.
People make mistakes.
But understand the difference between a mistake and malice.
A mistake accidentally happened.
There was no ill intent.
While malice had ill intent.
Repeated mistakes display painful ignorance, impulsivity, and/or malice.
Allow the misguided act to stop at a mistake.
Prevent the mistake from devolving into malice.
Being a Standup Person
One thing that I learned is that no one is perfect.
If you are in a situation where someone is trying to apologize to you, avoid the:
- “That would never happen to me,” mentality.
People who say, “that would never happen to me”, find themselves in strange predicaments where it does happen to them.
The universe has a sense of humor!
But in the same breath, avoid accepting an apology if you are really not over it.
Just like people give fake apologies, many give fake acceptances.
Those who give fake acceptances initially accept…
To only hold a grudge over the person later on.
Last but not least:
- Only apologize if there was genuine remorse.
Without that genuine remorse, all you’re doing is wasting everyone’s time.
For more logical breakdowns into social skills, be sure to check out the ArmaniTalks free daily newsletter.
This newsletter delves deep into the overlooked things when dealing with people.
Such as apologizing correctly, complimenting effectively, and actually listening rather than pretending to listen.