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August 8, 2017

Apologies can stink

“I apologize, Jim, if things got heated, but you did make some pretty rough insinuations.”
(Stephen Miller, WH advisor)


Last week, during a White House press conference, two men got into a heated argument in front of, well, everybody. Afterwards, in an effort to bring some peace to the situation, one of the men offered a familiar-sounding apology:


—“I’m sorry, Jim, if things got heated, but…”


You’ve heard (and maybe even said) something similar:


–“I’m sorry, Honey, if things got out of hand, but you were accusing me of….”


–“I’m sorry, Sweetheart, if Daddy yelled, but your behavior was so bad that…”


All of these apologies stink. In fact, they’re not even apologies. These are the worst passive-aggressive attempts to make people appear remorseful, all the while ultimately putting the blame of their own behavior on the very person they are supposedly apologizing to.


Here are a few ways you can smell out one of these horrible, offensive apologies:


  1. No true apology starts off with “I apologize if…”. A real apology acknowledges real behavior, and thus begins “I apologize for…”
  2. No true apology uses the passive voice, as in “things got heated”. Things do not get heated. People get heated, because they do not manage their emotions. Real grownups say this: “I apologize for yelling…”
  3. No true apology ever uses the “yes, but” formula, as in “yes I yelled, but your behavior…”. For real grownups, there is no but, because there is no excuse for behaving in a way worth apologizing for: “I apologize for yelling at you. There is no excuse for my behavior, and you deserve better from me.”


Peace begins with pause,



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