apologizing is overrated
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  1. ISO #1

    apologizing is overrated

    I've been thinking about the function of apologies and come to some conclusions. Though it may be helpful for me to run this by an external perspective, because I fear my thinking may be one-sided.

    I presume most are familiar with the general principle surrounding apologies, taught to us at school implicitly or explicitly:

    If you have done something wrong, you must apologize, and reassure whoever's affected that you won't do it again. Not doing so would be to run from one's responsibility. Conversely, do not apologize when you have done nothing wrong. This undermines the significance of apologies and reduces them to a hollow, kneejerk platitude.

    As I grew older, I became increasingly aware of a caveat, whether explicitly stated or not.

    Sometimes apologizing when you have done nothing wrong is justified, for example to keep the peace.

    If I had to guess, I'd say 60-70% of people probably accept this caveat in mild cases. And 99% accept this caveat in extreme cases. An extreme case would be one where some violent psycho is demanding an apology. So giving one may be worthwhile just to protect yourself in the short term until you can escape. A milder case may be one where you genuinely cannot see what you have done wrong, but the short-term utility in giving an apology to preserve your relationship outweighs the long-term damage done to the value of apologies in general. I think one convincing case may be a working relationship you do not care much for but could become a major source of stress if you don't swallow your pride and make peace. You may damage the long term value of apologies, but you risk damaging many other long term things if you don't say sorry!

    However, I have become increasingly aware of another caveat.

    Sometimes it is simply not worth apologizing, even if you have done something wrong.

    I wouldn't be surprised if a majority of people refused to publically accept such a caveat in a mild case. I wouldn't even be surprised if a significant portion of people reject the caveat in the extreme case. However, I have gradually come to the conclusion that this additional caveat is also acceptable, even if I would certainly never tell a small child such a caveat. To explain my reasoning, allow me to list the three things that give an apology value in the short term, as I understand them:

    1) It reassures the apologee that the one apologizing will make an earnest effort to change their ways.
    2) It serves as a verbal admission of wrongdoing, which will urge the one apologizing to change their ways.
    3) An apology has intrinsic value in the short term, via. the principle of apologies. (I think there is a philosophical term for the intrinsic value of good acts independent of the utility, but I cannot be bothered to find it).

    I have made the very obvious observation that there are many circumstances where 1 and 2 might both not apply. There are many circumstances where apologizing offers no reassurance to the apologee, or motivates the apologizer. Leaving the only reason to apologize being a commitment to the principle itself or the abstract long term damage done to apologies in general by not apologizing. Suppose one has an "evil" and incompetent boss, and you have made an error at work. In such a situation, suppose apologizing would only make your boss aware you even made a mistake and the evil boss will bully you to a highly unjustified degree. Or perhaps there is good reason to believe that an apology will be taken as weakness - that rather than receiving forgiveness or a bounded, proportionate punishment, the person/people who perceive the wrongdoing may feel vindicated in ostracizing you or inflicting a wildly disproportionate punishment. I think about this in the context of "cancel culture". You may have made a comment that was legitimately mean or offensive 5 years ago, but if apologizing feeds the mob and potentially damages your future, I think it's more pragmatic to remain dead silent and quietly resolve not to repeat the same mistake.

    In case you are wondering, these thoughts were not spurred by some particular wrongdoing I have committed (lol). I think now that I'm far outside of the sheltered world of school, I see many circumstances where such conditions may apply. We work rather hard to create an environment for children in the developed world where they are forgiven quickly and consequences for their wrongdoing do not have far-reaching consequences on their entire life. So giving them an idealistic approach to apologies is good and may instill principles. Yet in the modern world, where forgiveness seems to be turning into an exceedingly rare commodity, it simply doesn't make sense to engage in total, naiive good faith with many situations. If forgiveness loses value, so does apologizing.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Is the first caveat / second caveat obviously true or obviously false? I am compelled to share this in case I am missing something obvious. Perhaps my 3 short term reasons in favour of apologizing are missing some obvious 4th item, or I'm downplaying the long-term consequences too much. I have several other thoughts about the nature of apology that don't feed into a particular point above, but somehow also feel relevant:

    One other aspect of apologies is they can totally change how a blunder is perceived by others. If one puffs their chest out and insists they do not owe an apology, or made a blunder but "have no regrets", that can exert a shocking amount of influence on how the people around them perceive their wrongdoing. In this way, right and wrong become subject to interpretation to an extent - an interpretation you also exert influence over. This all sounds very manipulative, but if simply reframing a situation can absolve you of most or all of the blame, did you even do anything that bad in the first place? Perhaps you're being too hard on yourself? In some situations, the answer is probably yes. And if a stubborn insistence on one's own innocence feels like it goes too far, simply neglecting to bring it up can move the needle a shocking amount, as can those slimey pseudo-apologies where a wrongdoer expresses sympathy while tiptoeing around acknowledging any wrongdoing.

    Apologizing or an apologetic stance can also be self indulgent. A way of trying to quickly pacify people, or an indulging in one's own insecurities about one's own shortcomings. People of such inclinations would probably benefit from actively considering whether they have done something wrong, and whether they would expect an apology from someone else who had done something similar in their position. And focussing on rectifying a situation or preventing it from reoccuring is undoubtedly much more important than the apology, noble though it may be.

    Lastly, I should point out the very obvious point that an apology is much more than a "sorry". One can give a very sincere apology without ever uttering the word, while a "sorry, but" can be anything but an apology lol. I shall define an apology as, fundamentally, an admission of wrongdoing.
    Quote Originally Posted by Blinkstorteddd02 View Post
    naz, he's claiming to have been at your house last night and infected you. I know u were drunk but PLEASE try as hard as you can to remember... That burning you felt the next morning when you went pee was from me, not him.

  2. ISO #2

    Re: apologizing is overrated

    holy crap thats long.

    This is what happens when you get too used to writing thoughts in word and refraining from posting LOL. Ahem, sorry if it's a bit padded. I'd be very flattered if anyone bothers to read it nonetheless.
    Quote Originally Posted by Blinkstorteddd02 View Post
    naz, he's claiming to have been at your house last night and infected you. I know u were drunk but PLEASE try as hard as you can to remember... That burning you felt the next morning when you went pee was from me, not him.

  3. ISO #3

    Re: apologizing is overrated

    (I read nothing past the mention of the last caveat)
    I don't apologize if I suspect the other person to be a narcissist, ever. It's like giving candy to a kid - they'll just ask for more on a more regular basis. Same goes for other things. Like, if I ever give you or anyone a compliment whatsoever - you can be damn sure I don't think you're anything close to a narcissist. The fear of feeding one makes it so I've a very difficult time complimenting people tbh. I have issues..
    Quote Originally Posted by Oberon View Post
    from time to time, I act very much like a normal person.
    My spirit animal: https://youtu.be/fNugZU61EXI

  4. ISO #4

    Re: apologizing is overrated

    Btw, in my language, there's 2 apologies:
    "I'm sorry"
    "please forgive me"
    Is it different in English language?
    (I think I just don't see the difference between "I'm sorry" and "I apologize"?)

    I myself see "please forgive me" as fake - because it feels like it's about what they want.
    While others (majority I think) see "I'm sorry" as fake/easy/lesser.
    Go figure.
    Last edited by OzyWho; June 7th, 2022 at 11:11 AM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Oberon View Post
    from time to time, I act very much like a normal person.
    My spirit animal: https://youtu.be/fNugZU61EXI

  5. ISO #5

    Re: apologizing is overrated

    Based on your definition of an apology, I agree to some extent. Though tbh I have seen apologies from strangers/acquaintances very rarely except in PR statements and customer service so I can't be as certain lol.

    What I suspect makes or breaks it is if the person who perceives having been wronged is willing to listen a bit. At which point the person who has allegedly wronged can make an apology that doesn't sound similar to others. If an apology doesn't sound like other apologies, or contextually it would be unique, then it'll sound authentic. Examples showing this:

    1) When a person apologizes unnecessarily. I have two IRL friends who do this often but because its often unnecessary I find it to be genuine and authentic.
    2) Apologizing and, when doing so, resolving to rectify the issue while drawing upon personal qualities / stories. In other words -- don't generalize the apology so much that it has no specific relevance to your personality or personhood.

    It's likely not limited to those examples, but generally they're the most common ime.

    Personally, regardless of whether I am right or wrong on this, I think people in general IRL can be pretty bad in communication skills and so that'll just mess things up anyways.
    Last edited by MartinGG99; June 7th, 2022 at 11:23 AM.
    A.K.A "That One Idiot"

  6. ISO #6

    Re: apologizing is overrated

    Quote Originally Posted by OzyWho View Post
    Btw, in my language, there's 2 apologies:
    "I'm sorry"
    "please forgive me"
    Is it different in English language?
    (I think I just don't see the difference between "I'm sorry" and "I apologize"?)

    I myself see "please forgive me" as fake - because it feels like it's about what they want.
    While others (majority I think) see "I'm sorry" as fake/easy/lesser.
    Go figure.
    Seems like you understand the difference.

    "I'm sorry" --- "I feel bad about having wronged you." Also sometimes used to express feeling bad over something terrible happening to someone else even if the person saying "I'm sorry" is not responsible at all

    "Please forgive me" --- "Please don't be upset over it." This is an alternative meaning to it, but it also generally comes with the context that "I would feel bad or terrible if you're upset at me"

    Also I've almost never heard "Please forgive me" outside of like dramatic movies so it's interesting to hear that here lol.

    Also
    Apologize === Sorry
    Pretty much, except "Apologize" is probably a more "professional" way of saying it where "Sorry" is more casual
    Last edited by MartinGG99; June 7th, 2022 at 11:33 AM.
    A.K.A "That One Idiot"

  7. ISO #7

    Re: apologizing is overrated

    Well the way i see it there are two apology types.

    The "genuine" apology. Which is where you did something you feel really bad about and you genuinely want the other person to know that you are sorry for whatever happened and that you'll like to make amends or express solidarity with the individual.

    And the "strategic" apology. Aka, the one that might not be as genuine, but it is the best course of action to resolve whatever situation is happening in an hopefully non-confrontational way so that you can move on with your life and put whatever happened behind you.

    Is it sometimes worth not apologizing? Well that's up to you. I don't really see why it's a big deal to not apologize unless you really did act like an douchebag and should feel some sort of shame for whatever you did.
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  11. ISO #11

    Re: apologizing is overrated

    An issue I take with apologies is that they almost always come 'after' someone is caught doing something wrong. It feels like for many its just a gesture to pacify the other person as opposed to being an expression of regret. Often the person apologizing does feel regret, but its for the repercussions they are suffering because of their action as opposed to regret for the action itself.
    This rings especially hollow when the action is repeated. For someone who truly feels remorse for the action they took they will go to lengths to ensure they never cross that line again. Repeating the action reflects the words were just a shallow gesture they are socially conditioned to make in order to lessen the consequences of their action.

    Its an interesting concept to chew on but figured I would through this more internal view out there because your thoughts were mostly focused on the external drivers.
    Intellectual growth comes from discussions, not arguments. If you are unwilling to change your position and hear the other persons side you are closed minded and wasting your time.

  12. ISO #12

    Re: apologizing is overrated

    Something something evolution make we be social creatures something something importance of apologies to us as a species and individuals something something

    Something something
    You know what I mean
    Something something
    Quote Originally Posted by Oberon View Post
    from time to time, I act very much like a normal person.
    My spirit animal: https://youtu.be/fNugZU61EXI

  13. ISO #13

    Re: apologizing is overrated

    Quote Originally Posted by Helz View Post
    An issue I take with apologies is that they almost always come 'after' someone is caught doing something wrong. It feels like for many its just a gesture to pacify the other person as opposed to being an expression of regret. Often the person apologizing does feel regret, but its for the repercussions they are suffering because of their action as opposed to regret for the action itself.
    This rings especially hollow when the action is repeated. For someone who truly feels remorse for the action they took they will go to lengths to ensure they never cross that line again. Repeating the action reflects the words were just a shallow gesture they are socially conditioned to make in order to lessen the consequences of their action.

    Its an interesting concept to chew on but figured I would through this more internal view out there because your thoughts were mostly focused on the external drivers.
    I disagree with the assumption that most apologies come after someone is caught and they're only apologizing to mitigate repurcussions.

    While it's likely that's the only kind of apology you'll see from political figures/celebrities/organizations - the role of apologies in everyday interpersonal relationships is completely different.

    Accidentally spilled water on someone? You apologize to them, no degree of getting caught.

    Say something that you didn't realize would hurt someone else? You'll apologize as you didn't intend to hurt them (well assuming you're not one of those narcissists who claim "I did nothing wrong, it's YOUR fault that you were hurt by what I said)

    Eat the last bit of dessert that you didn't realize someone was specifically saving? You'll apologize as you thought it was just up for grabs and didn't realize otherwise.


    All of these scenarios involve situations where there was no ill intent but a negative outcome still occurred.

    Those are all minor misunderstandings, but the same reasoning can be applied to more major misunderstandings too.

    In day to day interpersonal scenarios it's pretty rare for someone to get "caught" doing something wrong in which an apology would be expected

  14. ISO #14

    Re: apologizing is overrated

    Quote Originally Posted by yzb25 View Post
    One other aspect of apologies is they can totally change how a blunder is perceived by others. If one puffs their chest out and insists they do not owe an apology, or made a blunder but "have no regrets", that can exert a shocking amount of influence on how the people around them perceive their wrongdoing. In this way, right and wrong become subject to interpretation to an extent - an interpretation you also exert influence over. This all sounds very manipulative, but if simply reframing a situation can absolve you of most or all of the blame, did you even do anything that bad in the first place? Perhaps you're being too hard on yourself? In some situations, the answer is probably yes. And if a stubborn insistence on one's own innocence feels like it goes too far, simply neglecting to bring it up can move the needle a shocking amount, as can those slimey pseudo-apologies where a wrongdoer expresses sympathy while tiptoeing around acknowledging any wrongdoing.
    If someone refuses to apologize and insists they did nothing wrong, the person they wronged is going to know the other person is an unapologetic ass. So in a 1 on 1 setting this is terrible advice (eg friendships or romantic relationships)

    The place where this has some merit is in influencing the opinion of third parties. It's likely to be very effective in swaying third parties in the short term. But it comes at a price.

    Said price being:
    - The person you wronged and refused to apologize to doesn't go away, and they're going to continue thinking you're an unapologetic ass
    - If you do this often people will start to notice a trend

    So a one-off instance? Sure it can work. But this inclination to not apologize tends to be more of a personality trait which people will notice over time and soon said unapologetic person will just be known as an unapologetic ass. Word gets around after all.

  15. ISO #15

    Re: apologizing is overrated

    I am personally of the opinion that if someone ended up hurt by your actions then it's worth giving a genuine apology as you have a scenario where someone was hurt by something you did.

    Now, there are many caveats to this:

    Apologizing to narcissists as Ozy pointed out is a bad idea.

    Apologizing to bad faith actors or manipulators is similarly a bad idea

    Apologizing to those that are chronically unapologetic themselves is a bad idea (although someone has to apologize first, and so it can often be worth it to just bite the bullet and be the first to apologize. If they apologize back then, great, feud ended and you can work towards reconciliation. If they don't, we'll now you know they're not worth your time)

    Apologizing when you didn't actually do anything wrong - well apologizing is probably a worse word than something like reconciliation. But they look similar so it's worth mentioning here. You can still work to reconcile a misunderstanding even if you don't believe yourself to have any fault. Recognizing genuine remorse over someone being hurt and working on ways to prevent such misunderstandings in the future is often not only enough, but is likely to be much more genuine than the kinds of fake token apologies you get from people who don't view themselves as at fault.



    That last one is something that I think many, many people struggle with, and being able to resolve misunderstandings is a skill that requires both a degree of emotional intelligence as well as the humility to swallow one's pride.

    And this isn't all to say that one should just capitulate on their principles in the interest of not hurting others. Part of the process of working on ways to prevent misunderstandings could be a recognition that the two of you are mutually incompatible, perhaps due to opposing principles, beliefs, personalities, or ideas. In which case the path forwards would be to just avoid future interactions.

  16. ISO #16

    Re: apologizing is overrated

    Quote Originally Posted by Lag View Post
    Recognizing genuine remorse over someone being hurt and working on ways to prevent such misunderstandings in the future is often not only enough, but is likely to be much more genuine than the kinds of fake token apologies you get from people who don't view themselves as at fault.
    This one's gotten me in trouble some times. I'd be in a situation where i'm being told to apologize, but i don't believe at all that i did something that should be apologized for.
    Then i'd be left with the dilemma of apologizing but secretly feeling very angry and resentful. Or to just not apologize and then create conflict with the other party. There's no winning there.
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  17. ISO #17

    Re: apologizing is overrated

    thank you lag. I am not sure what I wanted but that counter perspective really helped to straighten out my thoughts
    Quote Originally Posted by Blinkstorteddd02 View Post
    naz, he's claiming to have been at your house last night and infected you. I know u were drunk but PLEASE try as hard as you can to remember... That burning you felt the next morning when you went pee was from me, not him.

 

 

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