A Guys Guide To Apologizing
A come to Jesus (correctly) conversation for dudes who don’t know how to gracefully admit they fucked up.
Hey fellas, we need to talk. The last few years have been… rough.
Not just because of the various fuck ups either. When there has been room to apologize for the “smaller” offenses we’ve managed to fuck that up too. Saying sorry is supposed to be a moment of humility and compunction but instead, we’ve tried to make our fuck ups smaller than they actually were.
With that in mind here are a few basic rules for owning your shit.
Keep it short.
My editor loves to tell me not to fall in love with my words. Often what I see as a poetic turn of phrase is murk that the reader has to trudge through to find the point of what I’m trying to say. Apologizing is the same way.
A general rule of thumb. The longer you speak the greater the chance there is for you to say some goofy shit. Apologizing is a prime example. If you find yourself needing to apologize for something skip the long missive. All it does is allow you to get sidetracked from your main point which is “I’m sorry”.
But not too short.
Have you ever sent a text message that you thought was sweet or romantic and got “K” as a reply? Sucks don’t it? That is what your tweet-length apology feels like only way, way worse
As much as an overwritten soliloquy is a bad look so is the apology one-liner. If you have been outed for years of sexual harassment an “Oops, my bad” tweet comes off as dismissive because well, you’re being dismissive.
When in doubt shoot for a four-sentence apology. What did you do? To whom did you do it? Why are you sorry? How will you do better/make it better going forward?
There are five seconds left in the game. You’re ready for your favorite sportsball person to do what they do and bring it home. Instead, they strike out the free-throw on the two-yard line. When asked what happened they tell the reporter that their palms were sweaty because the sun was in their eyes and their teammates are trash. You don’t want to hear that shit. Neither does the person you did wrong.
You fucked up. Own it. Don’t blame it on the liquor. Don’t blame it on corporate culture. Don’t blame it on patriarchy (even if this part did play a role). You know why you did what you did. If you need to drink less then drink less. If you need a refresher on how to behave a work, go to HR. If you are blind to the privilege of patriarchy and race read some bell hooks. That part is on you.
Don’t “If” it up.
If is the bouncer at the club. You can get in IF you stand in line. You can get in IF you aren’t a group of nine dudes. You can get in IF you don’t violate the dress code. You can get in IF you have enough for the cover charge. Even then the bouncer will probably let someone skip ahead of you.
“If” means someone has to qualify for your sorry assed sorry.
“I’m sorry if I offended anyone.” You KNOW you offended someone. “If” says you don’t know who you offended. You offended Monique in accounting. You offended Sharon at the bar. You’ve offended the 517 women you have been in contact with this year.
“If” puts the onus of offense on the people to whom you are apologizing. I’m sorry IF you find yourself offended by the thing that I did is the equivalent of hoping someone doesn’t go hungry after you ate their food.
Don’t dodge the bullets.
Apologizing doesn’t absolve you. It doesn’t mean the people you hurt can’t be mad and talk cash shit about you to you. There isn’t a timetable for healing. You don’t get to be offended by the offended being offended. Yes, this means that some people will pile on because they find it fun. It’s not about them. You gotta shut up and eat it. Karma can be an S.O.B.
Contrition isn’t a singular action. saying I’m sorry to someone, tweeting it, or putting out a press release doesn’t mean you won’t have to do it again and again. Sometimes that means saying sorry to the same person over and over. Sometimes it’s saying sorry to a thousand individuals. Suck it up. Sincerity isn’t convenient. And, if you aren’t being sincere, if the job/agent/wife/mother/lawyer is making you apologize do that shit right anyway.
Realize you aren’t an angel.
The truth is most of us either have done something wrong or will at some point. We all have moments that land somewhere between problematic and horrific.
Most of us will never apologize until we are exposed for the varying levels of shit that we are and that’s honestly part of the problem. When the motivation for the apology is fuzzy then the quality of that apology will also be fuzzy. If you really want to save yourself some legwork do some reflecting and apologize for your shit before someone else makes you. But let’s be real. We won’t.
We fucked up. Own it fully. It’s time we step up and rest our heads in the guillotine. Because honestly, it rarely falls on most dude’s heads anyway.