the katykatikate guide to apologies

So you did something.

And it wasn't great.

Or maybe it was all the way terrible. You know what you did.

Now you need to apologize.

I see you opening your mouth.

QUICK!

Before you say:

But I didn't mean to!

I was drunk!

I'm sorry your feelings are hurt.

But THAT guy is engaging in ethnic cleansing!


PUT THREE FULL-SIZE MARSHMALLOWS IN YOUR MOUTH.

OK. Now listen.

I only have a matter of seconds before those 'mallows disintegrate.

Here's how you apologize:

1. Identify what you did wrong.
2. Take full responsibility for what you did wrong.
3. Express understanding of the impact of what you did wrong.
4. Communicate genuine remorse for what you did wrong.
5. Make a promise or plan to do better in the future, or demonstrate that you value this person.


Shit. That was a lot of information.

But you heard me, right? And you probably know all of this already... right?

You swallowed those 'mallows? Alright, let's take a swing and see where we are. Go ahead.


I'm sorry that your birthday party got ruined--



PUT FOUR FULL-SIZE MARSHMALLOWS IN YOUR MOUTH.

Identify what you did wrong. 
Not what was done wrong. 

This isn't Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where staircases "get moved" and hippogriffs "maul Malfoy."

This is the real world and birthday parties don't get ruined. Someone or something ruins them. In this case, it was you. It may seem like a small change, but it makes all the difference in the world.

YOU did it. Say so.

OK? You swallowed? Ready to try again?

I'm sorry I ruined your birthday party.

Good.


Joe thought it would be funny if we swapped out your birthday slideshow for a collection of your swimsuit pictures --





You know what's coming. PUT FIVE FULL-SIZE MARSHMALLOWS AND A SPOONFUL OF PEANUT BUTTER IN YOUR MOUTH.

Take full responsibility for what you did wrong. 
Joe is Joe's job. 
You do you, boo boo. 

There is literally no reason to involve any other person in an apology that you are delivering to another individual, unless at some point during the delivery of your apology another person comes up and is like "Hey Chad, do you have my Gossip Girl box set you borrowed," and you're like, "Oh hey Tina, I'm right in the middle of something, I'll check in with you in a sec."

Any mention of another person, place, thing, or entity reads as you shucking your responsibility. And you need to take responsibility for what you did if you are sorry for it.

Repeat after me:

Society did not ruin the birthday party.
Your mean stepfather did not make a tit joke to your coworker.
Your porn addiction did not steal money from your grandma.

Your apology should have only singular personal pronouns in it. I, me, my. If you start to say we, you're sharing responsibility. And that's not your job right now.

There will be time for reasons and explanations and getting to the bottom of whose idea was whose, and that time is called "therapy" and occasionally "court." That time is not now, while you are apologizing.

OK? You good? Need a glass of milk or something? Alright, let's hear it.


I'm sorry I ruined your birthday party.
I swapped out your birthday slideshow for a slideshow 
of swimsuit pictures of you.

Mm hmm...

We-- I mean, I
didn't mean to hurt your feelings. 
We-- shit!
I was trying to be funny and like help the party be memorable. 
I didn't think you'd mind because it's not like you're ugly. 



Open up, Chad. Here come the choo-choo, and it's hauling six full-size marshmallows and a half-dozen hot dog buns. Breathe through your nose.

Express understanding of the impact of what you did wrong.

I literally cannot scream this too loudly:

WHAT YOU MEANT TO DO
DOESN'T FUCKING MATTER. 

If you ever catch yourself starting a sentence, "I didn't mean to..." or "I was trying to..." you need to stop. Freeze as if a bee flew into your mouth. Stop as if The Rock just walked by and smiled at you.

omg
he's adorable

When you begin to explain why you weren't really wrong to do what you did, you prove to the person you're apologizing to that your #1 goal is to appear kind, when your #1 goal should be actual kindness.

Also, if you talk about your good intentions rather than your crappy impact, then your entire apology becomes about convincing this person that their feelings are imaginary and their instincts cannot be trusted. And that's not how we play in pre-k.

Imagine how you'd feel. You're standing in a room with all of your family and friends and colleagues, and the lights go down, and suddenly everyone is standing in the dark staring at a picture of you in a swimsuit.




Imagine how that'd feel. Imagine knowing that every time you stand up to lead a meeting, the people who were at your birthday party will recall your hairy belly button. Imagine that.

That feeling you're having right now is called empathy. It might feel scary and uncomfortable when you give yourself time and space to really sink into the ways that you fucked up and hurt somebody. But believe me when I tell you that this expression of understanding is possibly the most important part of the entire apology.

You can't just slap a band-aid on a cut without cleaning it first. As with cleaning a wound, you have to explore the hurt fully. It hurts more to clean it, but without that full understanding, the apology is just a band-aid over a festering wound.

OK, now try again.

I'm sorry I ruined your birthday party.
I swapped out your birthday slideshow for a slideshow
of swimsuit pictures of you.

I embarrassed you in front of people you love and respect on a night that you were supposed to feel special and loved. That was really insensitive and mean. 

OMG yes.

...
Okay so, we good?



SEVEN 'MALLOWS AND A CRONUT. SHUT UP AND EAT IT.

Express genuine remorse for what you did wrong. 

I know, you might be thinking But haven't I done that already? I said sorry first, and then I took responsibility, and then I demonstrated understanding... 

No, you need to express genuine remorse again. Why? Because you fucked up.

Woah, that cronut went down fast. OK. Here we go.

I'm sorry I ruined your birthday party.
I swapped out your birthday slideshow for a slideshow
of swimsuit pictures of you.


I embarrassed you in front of people you love and respect on a night that you were supposed to feel special and loved. That was really insensitive and mean. 



Words cannot express the depths of my shame. Apparently I devastated your sense of self-respect and utterly shattered our friendship. If you were to never speak to me again I wouldn't blame you. I deserve to be flogged, flayed, drawn and quartered for my crime. STRING ME UP UPON THE BATTLEMENTS--






EEEEEEASY CAPTAIN.

So what you're doing now is both highly entertaining and total bullshit.


The size of your remorse has to match the size of the crime. 

Too small and you don't take responsibility; too big and you shift the focus of empathy back to you and beg the other person to tell you that "it wasn't that bad." 

Did you shatter your frienship? Maybe. But that's not your place to say, and you aren't the one who should be comforted here.

Think of your apology as the dish soap 
that you use to clean a pan. 
Use too little and the pan won't get clean.
Use too much and suddenly you can't see the pan 
under all those bubbles.

OK. (Cracks neck.) It's cool, you're learning. It's a process. You've got this. Go.

I'm sorry I ruined your birthday party.
I swapped out your birthday slideshow for a slideshow
of swimsuit pictures of you.


I embarrassed you in front of people you love and respect on a night that you were supposed to feel special and loved. That was really insensitive and mean. 


I'm so, so sorry. 
I couldn't even sleep all weekend and... 
wait, I'm making this all about me again, aren't I? 
I should just stop talking now, shouldn't I?




You are almost done. 

Make a plan or promise for the future,
and tell this person why you value him or her. 


OK, whole thing. From the top.

I'm sorry I ruined your birthday party.

I swapped out your birthday slideshow for a slideshow of swimsuit pictures of you over the years.

I embarrassed you in front of people you love and respect on a night that you were supposed to feel special and loved. That was really insensitive and mean. 

I'm so, so sorry. 

I promise never to embarrass you like that again. I care so much about our friendship and I want to do whatever I can to earn your respect again.


Thank you.
That was perfect. 


Now, just for shits and giggles, let's look at the apology you almost gave:

I'm sorry that your birthday party got ruined.

Joe thought it would be funny if we swapped out your birthday slideshow for a collection of your swimsuit pictures.

We didn't mean to hurt your feelings. We were trying to be funny and like help the party be memorable. We didn't think you'd mind because it's not like you're ugly. 

Words cannot express the depths of my shame. Apparently, I devastated your sense of self-respect and utterly shattered our friendship. If you were to never speak to me again I wouldn't blame you. I deserve to be flogged, flayed, drawn and quartered for my crime. STRING ME UP UPON THE BATTLEMENTS AND LEAVE MY ENTRAILS TO FEED THE RATS AND ROT IN THE SUN.

OK, so we good?




Yikes, right? Isn't it amazing how few words you changed to turn a bullshit apology into a real apology?

And once you understand why a bullshit apology is so thoroughly bullshit, you'll start to hear them everywhere you go. Sorry about that. I kind of feel like I just Matrixed you against your will.

tell me you're sorry i'm so sensitive
tell me
i fucking dare you
make me a murderer

And here's the thing - good people make bullshit apologies all the time. Your niceness is a separate issue from whether you've ever developed the skill of apologizing well. You're probably also terrible at golf if you've never really worked on it, but that doesn't make you a fundamentally inferior person.

Keep working on it. It is so easy to slip and start making about what you meant to do, or to skip that critically important piece of demonstrating empathy when you hit the express lane to, "OK? We good?" 

Just remember how big a difference there is between the apology you almost gave and the apology we worked out together.

And also remember this:

No matter how well you apologize, 
you will still face consequences for what you did.

You might deserve to get fired. She might leave. He might never be a friend again. Your apology can't undo any of it. 

Your apology is not your exit slide 
off the airplane that you crashed. 

No apology on Earth can remove you from the reality that you hurt someone, broke a rule, broke a law, fucked up profoundly. No apology on Earth is a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. But you apologize anyway, and you do it right.

Your apology is you
helping everyone else off the plane.

Because it's the right fucking thing to do. Because that's the only way through. Because a real apology is the difference between a plane crash and a plane crash with casualties. So do what you can, think about everyone else who was on that plane, and accept the consequences.

Now download this image, save it to your faves, and go brush your g-d teeth. #Mallows





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4 comments:

  1. A potential addition: What I plan do to repair the harm to the relationship.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Both this and your Aziz piece have been EXTREMELY awesome and helpful in writing what's turned into a term-paper of a compendium on this week of Aziz that was initially supposed to be an intro to a podcast that's ostensibly about fame but more and more is becoming about #metoo and men (aka me) and learning how to apologize and etcetera and so on. Sadly for me, all of this reading/research is going to lead to audio and text that comes out next Monday, when Aziz will be ancient ancient news. But the listening and learning have been invaluable, and that's what I think I'm supposed to be doing, at least as much as talking, these days, and beyond.
    Anyway, great work, thanks, and ... thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you this is very helpful and well written!

    ReplyDelete