They say people aren’t as polite as they used to be. Human adults used to invite friends over for tea and serve them homemade cookies, while we now agree to host parties at our own apartments because it means we’re allowed to keep all the leftover bottles of alcohol. We used to mind our manners around the elderly, while now we use their funerals as backdrops for our awesome #selfies.
But, most critically, we can’t even excuse our less-than-polite behavior.
This is because we have forgotten how to apologize.
All over the world people are going around not knowing how to apologize. Type “how to say sorry” into Google and the qualms of countless remorseful millennials pop up, querying the internet about apologetic matters ranging from “how to say sorry in Spanish” to “how to say sorry to your girlfriend” and “how to say sorry for missing an event”. Asking for forgiveness is such a vital part of maintaining meaningful relationships, yet we simply do not know, or have forgotten how, to do it.
This epidemic can be seen not just on the internet but all over real life. The main example of this is “sorry not sorry,” a form of non-apologizing that can be done either explicitly — such as in the Urban Dictionary definition of “sorry not sorry” — or implicitly, where you replace the word “not” with an action or another sentence that negates the first “sorry”.
“We deeply apologize if it has been misinterpreted”
Well done, guys, for sort of trying to half-apologize, but this response really just places the blame on the offendees.
Maria Kang, AKA “Hot Mom,” has also forgotten the correct way to apologize. In response to claims of fat-shaming that were brought about by her fat-shaming a campaign by Curvy Girl Lingerie, she issued this excellent non-apology:
“There are not many things I’m sorry about in life, but recently I’ve been feeling a deep sense of sadness within me. After being blocked on Facebook and reading the Yahoo article explaining the ban, I feel completely misunderstood.”
Even retail behemoth Barneys, with all the thousands of people they employ, could not find one single person who knew how to apologize properly:
“…it is clear that no employee of Barneys New York was involved in the pursuit of any action with the individual other than the sale. Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination and we stand by our long history in support of all human rights. We are very sorry that any customer of our store would have this experience.”
But evidently, they’re not facing this predicament alone:
Robert Karen, PdD, an award-winning author and clinical psychologist, explains the phenomenon of non-apologizing thusly:
“Like forgiveness, apology can take many forms. It can be perfunctory; it can be partial but still real; it can be full-hearted and transforming, bringing about a reconnection and rekindling of love. But like forgiveness, apology born of guilty fear, a compulsive wish to please, or compliance is not worth much.”
“People feel guilty and apologize all the time, but often the apology comes out of shame (what I did to you makes me look bad and I can’t tolerate that) or what might be called superego guilt, which is more like fear of a higher authority (those condemning inner voices) than genuine remorse.”
The most essential part of an apology, according to Karen, is an ability to own up to what you have done. Our expert uses the example of “Bob”, which can be freely interchanged with either “Chanel” or “Urban Outfitters“:
Owning up means getting past one’s defensiveness. It means stepping out of the blaming system, in which one person has to be not only wrong but the bad one, the unforgiven.
So, in conclusion we have:
1. Be genuinely remorseful!
2. Own up to your wrongful words or actions!
You can also spice up this simple two-step process by considering relevant factors of your own — so long as they don’t detract from the remorsefulness or the owning up. Examples include “look someone in the eye” (of course this depends on physical proximity of offender to offendee) and “probably don’t issue the apology via Twitter”.
Another thing you might like to do, when apologizing, is to consider actually learning from your mistake and not doing a similarly offensive thing in the future.
Okay! Write those steps down, print them out, learn them by heart, and give them to
the spokespeople of Chanel your future children. And if you still can’t remember how to apologize, here’s a good alternative: Don’t be offensive in the first place.
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