The 5 Most Obnoxious Ways People Screw Up Apologies

Saying "sorry" acknowledges that you're a conscious agent of change in the universe, and that you screwed it up. It also recognizes that others are real people whose feelings are important. Or that they're capable of hitting you. Either way, important.

This man receives more apologies than you.

Apologizing is admitting that you made a mistake and implies that you won't do it again. But some people can't even get through the "sorry" before screwing up again, creating a perpetual loop powered by failure. Which confuses the shit out of thermodynamics. It's meant to prevent perpetual anything, but it's also meant to make things fail, so it doesn't know whether it should stop this, or help it, or sue for trademark infringement, or what. These apologies are so wrong, they anger the laws of physics. Never mind the poor sucker you're apologizing to.

#5. The Pre-Emptive Apology

Some people front-load apologies: "I'm really really sorry, but I broke the vase your late grandmother left you." That's fine. The problem is when they confuse this admission of culpability with a get-out-of-consequences-free card. Some people try to avoid any emotional fallout by apologizing first so you can't get upset, and then get mad when you're still upset. This uses an apology as a blame inverter, turning the victim into the bad guy for reacting to bad news at all. Unless you're Judas, you're not apologizing to someone who's capable of forgiving before they even know there's something to forgive. Never mind personalities or circumstances -- the laws of physics require a finite amount of time for electrical signals to move through the brain.
"Sorry, Jesus, I just had to give you a kiss to show how much I love your vertical sombrero."

Then there's the indignant whine of "But I said I was sorry!" This has never worked. Not once has another person said, "Oh, gosh, so you did, I'll just jam an icepick into my skull to shut down my own emotional center." You're trying to rob them of any emotional reaction, and then getting upset when they turn out not to be Vulcan.

Dammit, Jim, my son told you not to use the master bedroom. The sheets are covered in green body paint!

The proper format is admission, apology, accepting consequences. These premature apologizers are trying to avoid the last part, the emotional equivalent of a 5-year-old hiding in his room after breaking something. Apologizing is about the person you've wronged, not you. Shouting "sorry" first is like bathing an area in foam extinguisher before throwing a petrol bomb -- it might help a bit, but all you're really doing is warning people that something bad is about to happen and that it's your fault. You have to be involved in the process and be aware of how they feel. Just saying "sorry" is like saying "foreplay" while playing Xbox and expecting your partner to be stiff and/or wet when you decide to put down the controller.

#4. The Apology Jackhammer

An apology is a gesture of atonement. It's not money or LEGO; it doesn't get better the more you give someone. This doesn't stop some people from beating their victims with the clammy pillow of their contrition: "I'm sorry, no, I'm really sorry, I didn't know, really, I'm so sorry, sorry ..."

"... and I'm sorry for gluing myself to your face to make sure you heard all my apologies and ..."

It's because they're not apologizing for your sake. They just can't handle the idea that anyone might not love them 100 percent at any given moment and will devote their entire empty skull to fixing this problem, that hollow chamber echoing the same apologies over and over again until you loudly assure them that they're perfect and you have no negative thoughts toward them. Even though they've now done multiple things to piss you off. And their idea of calming you down was mentally poking you with constant reminders of how they hurt you and how soul-piercingly annoying they are.


Constant repetition is how you make any words utterly meaningless, which is an accurate statement about this kind of apology. If you've wronged someone and apologized, your control of this situation has ended. The whole point of an apology is acknowledging that the other person's feelings exist. If the wronged party is angry but silent, that means your apology has worked as intended. They're upset, but they accept that you're sorry, and now they just want some time to deal with that. They don't need an idiot repeatedly clicking "refresh" on their emotional state until they get the reward they want.

#3. Apologizing for the Interruption

A phone ringing during a movie, play, talk or any other public gathering is no longer an embarrassing accident. It's how one person stands up to remove their pants and rub their balls/flange on the forehead of every single person present. Mobile phones are not new. This isn't Lord Dashery Boundingham rudely interrupting a good hand of whist by receiving a newfangled telegram. Walking into a cinema with your phone on is like shitting yourself in the seat: It's a function that all humans have known about for most of their lives, and only complete brain failure or staggering contempt for everyone else in the room would let them do it.

"I get free snacks when other people leave them behind in disgust!"

It's psychopathic behavior. It reveals how they think the hundreds of other people present aren't real, just highly detailed wallpaper that covers the unimportant parts of their lives like a video game background.

"No, it's cool, I think everybody else just freezes when I'm on my mobile. I'm like Zach Morris, but less sympathetic."

There is no way to avoid this hate. It is deserved. The only possible reaction is to turn off the phone and if at all possible die quietly of shame. The absolute worst thing to do is loudly apologize, because that's more noise, and now everyone not only hates you but can pick you out of a crowd and recognize your voice in a darkened alley. Where you'd better hope they don't find you.

Apologizing for the interruption turns the apology into part of the crime, reversing the request for forgiveness into a hatred turbocharger. Apologizing for making noise by making more noise proves that the person doesn't understand either word. They've just been taught to shout "sorry" after screwing up, something they do so often that it now happens without any conscious thought, like the rest of their lives. All the apologist achieves is proving that the human race doesn't have latent psychic powers, because if we did, the concentrated hatred-glare would cause them to burst into flames. And they would die as they had lived: hated, and interrupting a movie.

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Luke McKinney

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