six no-nos of apologizing (test-driven by me)

the first installment in a week-long series exploring the rituals of apologizing

i've made my share of mistakes, which means i've done a fair amount of apologizing.  and not always in the best possible way.  so here's a little apologies-no-no-book for me:

  1. when you feel like you did something wrong, but you're not sure what it is, try not to apologize amorphously without really finding out why you should be sorry.
  2. when you've been hurting someone's feelings for an extended period of time, try not to give blanket i'm-sorrys for things that deserve specific apologies.
  3. when you've done something a little wrong, try not to apologize a million times for it.
  4. when you've done something a lot wrong, try not to hold it against the other person when they need more than one apology for it to really sink in that you're sorry.
  5. when you're in the middle of a bad spot with someone, try not to say you're sorry in a tone of voice that really means, "you're-a-pain-in-my-ass why-are-you-so-sensitive it's-your-owndamnfault-anyway goodgodwhatdididotodeservethis?!"
  6. when someone is taking things out on you unfairly, try not to apologize for things you're not really sorry about.
do you have some rules about saying you're sorry?  i so want to know them.  tell me in the comments, will you?


  1. don't apologize for how someone else feels about something you did.

    1. derek, this is where i get tangled up a lot. give me an example. yes, i think i need an example.

    2. "I'm sorry you don't understand" vs. "Maybe I could give a better example."
      "I'm sorry your feelings were hurt" vs. "I'm sorry I hurt your feelings."

  2. I try to never say, "I'm sorry, BUT..." If the 'but' is in there, I'm not really ready to apologize, and it will probably make things worse than just staying quiet until I am ready to give a real, unqualified "I'm sorry. PERIOD."

    1. ha! emily, i know that sometimes i do this and cleverly deny to myself that i'm doing it by just not saying the BUT. i'll say the "i'm sorry," and then i'll say the excuse/reverse accusation/reason it's not my fault. i just won't say the word BUT. an implied "but" is still a "but," yes?