March 26, 2010

How to resolve everything in the world

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:59 pm by Iain

From one of the fine people at the anti-racism blog, Stuff White People Do:

I think most people get apologies wrong just in general. Fake apologies are like, reflexive or something. I used to suck at apologizing and I have to admit it still doesn’t come 100% naturally (god, I hate to be wrong), but someone, I wish I could remember who, taught me exactly how to apologize, and damned if it doesn’t totally work.

Ideally, it should take ONE SENTENCE. In this exact order: 1) specifically state the error; 2) express your remorse, simply; and then 3) stfu so the other person can consider whether to accept or reject. If you did it right, they’ll accept. Example: “When I said XYZ, I invoked a hurtful stereotype, and I am really sorry.”

Easy peasy! Now: don’t do it again.
The beauty is, it forces you to identify and address the actual wrong, and the other person knows you Sincerely See The Problem.
Note, the sentence cannot include bingo qualifiers. So no: “I’m sorry if it sounded like…” or “I wasn’t thinking and I…” or “Yikes! That came out wrong. I meant…” Even phrases that are short enough insert into a one-sentence apology are bingo squares. They’re still irrelevant explanations of intent, and they invalidate the entire apology. And they have a way of slipping in, even when you know better. Just suck it up and apologize. Risk the potential rejection. It takes effort, but it’s worth it. It get easier with time, and you tend to screw up less in the first place.

And it’s not as bad as you think. People would rather not be pissed, so you might be surprised at how they just move right on when you apologize. It goes a long way.

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