Apologies are an Anachronism

It's really best to just not apologise at all, but rather push back. Apologies as now often defined, are too fraught. If there isn't a correction that can be verbally expressed (without re-interpretation of the statement to show it was disingenuous), the apology is going to be wrong, no matter what the intent is.

Just don't do it.

Okay, here's the Michener version:

Six elements of reconstructing apologies for Apology Police:

Someone (probably anonymous) disseminated "6 elements of a sincere apology". While these 6 elements may represent a retraction, they are not a prerequisite of an apology. An apology is a way to address a harm, offence or infringement, as the opposite of an expression of contempt.

The Six Elements of an Apology

[Bullshit warning ... ]
1.   Acknowledgement of responsibility
- Bullshit. It is possible to apologize for something that went wrong even if one is not responsible for it. That is the polite thing to do. e.g., if someone (or something) pushes person A and person A falls against person B, person A can apologise, and probably should apologise. Person A's only responsibility would have been being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

It does not require admitting something was your fault and taking ownership over the mistake. The "mistakes were made" non-apology apology has been compared to this, but that is an issue of shirking obligation. In some cases it can make the apology insincere, but that is a different issue.

There are some instances where the offense or harm was caused by the person to whom the apology was directed. Examples would be statements that are misinterpreted but through no fault of the person making the apology.

2.   Offer of repair
- No. That requires fault, and for that matter an ability to repair. If one is in fact at fault and unable to repair, the issue is whether the person should also apologise for failing to repair. On the other hand, many things do not raise to the level of "repair", for example bumping into someone.

3.   Expression of regret
- No, that's expression of regret. To some extent the apology is a form of regret, but if one interrupts someone to pass through, it is doubtful the person passing through feels regret. It may well be that the passing through is actually for the benefit of the people interrupted -- apology but no regret.

On the other hand, if the apology is in line with a mistake, but the act was intentional, that is simply insincere. Not every act, even intentional ones that cause harm, offence or infringement need be regretted. For example I have a physician (actually a dentist) who routinely apologises for something that causes pain (a jab), but certainly intends to give me the jab (typically Lidocane). The apology for the intentional act that the dentist intends to repeat, and lets the patient know that the dentist is concerned.

4.   Explanation of what went wrong
- Bullshit again. Even discounting obvious explanations, one does not always know what went wrong. This is a matter of knowledge; not a qualification for apology.

5.   Declaration of repentance
- That could be on-point or not. If one considers the apology itself a declaration of repentance, then that's what it is. If one is apologising for circumstances, there may be no repentance at all. There are many cases in which one fully expects a mistake to occur again, either because the act is by its nature acceptable or one does not expect to avoid the harm. Contrast this with insincerity, such as apologizing for an intentional wrong, or worse yet, "I'm sorry you feel that way." The latter should be kept to oneself, because the expressed regret is to the person apologising; not the person harmed.

6.   Request for forgiveness
- Bullshit. Outside of the supernatural, forgiveness is a decision for the other person and should not be requested or demanded.

7.   (I can't count, but I've seen this one repeated by "apology police")
  How one will keep the offense from happening again.
- That has to do with whether that applies. A doctor administering a jab certainly does intend to administer more jabs if medically indicated. That also would preclude apologising when one expects the same event to recur, such as bumping into someone.

8.   (I said I can't count.) Thank the person.
No! Not unless the person has expressly accepted the apology!

Instead of the "6 elements", I would go with insincerity. That does not cover the distinction of apology vs. expression of regret, repentence, contrition, explanation, and acknowledgement of responsibility. Also (see Item 5) "I am sorry you feel that way." - Besides the issue of gratuitously diagnosing another person's feelings, one should not apologise for the other person.

My take - it is better to just say "[Private act of affection] You" than to apologise under the "6 elements" criteria.

Yet another, which essentially precludes apologies if the above doesn't:

9.   Negotiate acceptance before apologising.
- There's yet another important element to an apology, which should basically relegate apologies to a historical artifact -- The apology should be acceptable to the other person. The implication is that every apology (or at least every apology for a something significant) should be negotiated. Don't expect the apology to be accepted? - Don't bother. Not skilled at negotiation? - Don't attempt it.

The whole thing about seeking acceptance of a (proposed) apology before apologising pretty much places one in an adversary position, and turns an apology into an adversarial negotiation. It's typically going to be unworkable.

Inappropriate (or "uncalled for") Apologies

Most of these are redirected apologies, meaing one person expressing what sounds like an apology by apologizing on behalf of the person to whom the apology should be directed:

I'm sorry you feel that way.

This also applies to the "Non-pology" category. This "Non-pology" basically apologies on on behalf of the aggrieved person. The best response is to push back:


Please don't apologize on my behalf. It's rude. First off, I never told you how I feel, and you are not qualified to make such a gratuotous diagnosis anyway. Please address what I actually stated.

(perhaps less harsh...)   Please don't apologize on my behalf. I don't apologise for how you perceive I feel.

Please don't apologize on my behalf. I have no reason to to apologise because you are participating in commercial abuse -- not as serious as most physical abuse, but nevertheless abuse. Please don't apologise on my behalf for your abuse.


... are directly disingenuous apologies, sometimes suggestive of denial of documented facts, but more often addressing a different or "false flag" issue.


The Bovine Scatology Test
Indications of BS (information of questionable validity)

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First posted 20-Nov-21. Last revised 28-Nov-21.

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