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.

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.

The 5 Most Obnoxious Ways People Screw Up Apologies

"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.

The 5 Most Obnoxious Ways People Screw Up Apologies

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.

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 ..."

The 5 Most Obnoxious Ways People Screw Up Apologies

"... 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.

The 5 Most Obnoxious Ways People Screw Up Apologies


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.

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.

The 5 Most Obnoxious Ways People Screw Up Apologies

"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.

The 5 Most Obnoxious Ways People Screw Up Apologies

"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.

Sorry for Indecision

You're taking votes on Indian or Chinese for lunch, and can actually hear a co-worker's brain creaking under the strain as they grapple with this Gordian enigma. Overloaded mental gears grind and tear, screeching an error message that means "This unit is not rated to take part in regular human activities" but sounds like "Oh God, sorry, hang on, wait, let's see ..." The amount of processing time required is inversely proportional to the importance of the issue and directly proportional to the number of hungry people now seriously considering butchering and cannibalizing the idiot.

The 5 Most Obnoxious Ways People Screw Up Apologies

"In the time it's taken him to draw a condiment flowchart, we could have barbecued him."

They're adding the apology to the crime, and every neuron spent spewing "sorry"s is another not employed to make the decision. And they clearly didn't have enough to resolve that imponderable conundrum in the first place. They couldn't give a less sincere apology without engraving it on a bullet. Apologies are meant to be about other people, but these fence posts simply cannot imagine the third option of "If I can't make a decision, maybe my own nonexistent preference is less important than the lives of everyone waiting for me."

The 5 Most Obnoxious Ways People Screw Up Apologies

"On the one hand, there's me. The other hand is also used to masturbate."

This person is mugging you, but instead of money, they're stealing time, which you can't make more of. And they're always the kind of people you could easily flatten if they went for your wallet. But misplaced politeness arms them to steal precious life from everyone they know.

If you find yourself about to apologize for taking too long to make a decision, say the first choice. Instantly. If they were so close, it doesn't really matter which you pick, and more importantly, you no longer deserve to get the best possible choice. That was a prize for people capable of making decisions. And if you're in charge of collecting the responses for any casual vote, just count "um"s as spoiled ballots. It doesn't mean "Pause everything and wait for me, the most important member of the group"; it means "Leave me, I'll only slow you down."

Sorry Postscript

By far the worst and most common anti-apology is the postscript. You've choked out a "sorry," things have calmed down, and you can't help but sling one last barb. You might as well have spent the last five minutes yelling about the other party's sex with Satan, because the fight is back on, and you could have had some fun inventing new mythological matrimonial relations. An apology with a postscript is a box of chocolates that smells of urine: It doesn't just destroy the effort, it means they're more pissed off that you went to all that effort to do a good thing and then went to even more personal effort to ruin it.

The 5 Most Obnoxious Ways People Screw Up Apologies

"They say you should put a lot of yourself into a gift."

The idea of "winning" an argument is the exact opposite of apologizing, and also why apologies are necessary. You can convince the other person in a discussion. When things move to argument mode, your personality is just a barnacle clinging on to the back of a huge white whale of territorial instincts and posturing, and the whale only wants to kill that bastard Ahab. Once things escalate to the argument stage, you really are in WarGames: The only winning move is not to play.

United Artists

This knows more about human emotions than you.

Get into a yelling match and you've handed over the controls of your modern brain to the monkey that lives one inch below your skin. And that monkey might now have access to an improved vocabulary and an impressive arsenal of psychological weapons, but its tactics haven't changed: screech loudly and fling shit at the opponent.

The 5 Most Obnoxious Ways People Screw Up Apologies

Every time you've ever yelled, except he has an excuse.

If you're going to do anything, do it properly. Either apologize and stop talking, or down a Scotch, smash the bottle, set fire to the table and leap out the window. Either way, they'll admire your honesty and know better than to keep arguing with you, and you'll get some peace.

Luke also has a website, tumbles and responds to every single tweet.

Luke explains 5 Million Reasons To Hate Donald Trump and finds the 3 Most Wildly Unsuitable '80s Cartoon Heroes.

Scroll down for the next article


Forgot Password?