Sunday, February 25, 2018

Types of Apologies (Part 4)

I'm going to start with a type of apology that seems to be hated by most people. But I think there are times that it has it's rightful place.

This is....

9. SORRY-FOR-YOUR-FEELINGS-This apology is used when we don't regret our actions, but we do feel bad that they caused harm.

Of course, there are times where it is highly ineffective and offensive. For example, a rapist says to his victim, I'm sorry our date made you uncomfortable, or even a more upfront approach. I'm sorry you felt raped. Then again, there are times where there is disagreement over whether something equals rape or not.  Our society is still crossing over from no-means-no to yes-means-yes. I think denying (gaslighting) that a rape occurred is different than disagreement over whether a rape occurred.  In the former, the person is saying, That never happened, or it didn't happen the way you said it happened. In the latter, the person is saying, Yes that happened. But I don't think it's rape.

Let's say a woman pressures her girlfriend into trying something kinky and the girlfriend reluctantly agrees.  If it's later labeled as rape I can understand the woman saying, I'm sorry you felt raped.  Later the woman might learn a lot about coercion and change her mindset on what happened. She might then reach out and say, Hey. Remember what happened between us a few years ago? I've been reading a lot, and I now feel what I did to you was really wrong.  I'm sorry. 

The thing about Sorry-For-Your-Feelings Apologies is they can later change into apologies that involve true regret over behavior.  It's just sometimes we need time to decide whether we feel our actions were wrong or not. And sometimes we might continue to believe we did nothing wrong.

I'm thinking the difference between decent SFYF Apologies and not decent SFYF is black and white issues vs. grays.  If someone says something very obviously racist and then says, I'm sorry you were offended, it's like, Okay. Thanks for caring about my feelings. But you are still...VERY RACIST! 

Grays are in humor a lot. A joke may be funny to some people, not funny to some people, and offensive to other people.  If we tried to find jokes that were not-offensive and hurtful to 100% of the population, we'd have to just give up joking all together.

Let's say there's a dinner party. A guy tells a joke about a crocodile eating someone.  It's dark, but funny.  Everyone laughs.  One person doesn't. She looks sad.  It turns out her uncle was actually killed by a crocodile.

So, should we stop telling dark jokes about rare, dramatic causes of death?  Should we stop humming the Jaws theme song in the pool because someone there might have lost a family member to a shark attack?  Should we not imitate Woody from Toy Story saying, There's a snake in my boot, because someone in our midst might have lost someone to a fatal snake bite?

I personally don't think we should stop any of these jokes. I think dark humor is a great thing.

However, I also don't think we should shame a person who is hurt by these jokes. I think saying, Sorry that joke caused you pain is much better than saying, Oh lighten up!  Or, Come on. It's just a joke.  Yet, I also don't think it's fair to demand that someone actually apologize for making the joke.

Another area in which I think the SFYF Apology has merit is controversial opinions.  Controversial opinions are pretty much the story of my life. I have a lot of them. I share a lot of them on my blog.  I've had a lot of interpersonal drama because of these opinions. I'm not sorry for my opinions. I'm not sorry for sharing them.  But that doesn't mean I don't regret that I've hurt someone, made someone angry, or caused drama.  I'm not sure how I reacted when these dramas occurred. Did I do a SFYF apology or variation?  I have no idea.  If I did, would they have accepted the apology?  I'm doubting it.  I think a lot of times when we show anger and/or demand an apology for an opinion, what we actually want is the person to show they've changed their opinion.

But this is unrealistic and unfair.  Instead of demanding that they change, it makes more sense to A) try to understand their opinion B) Try to get them to understand our point of view C) Agree to (peacefully) disagree or D) Conclude we can't like this type of person, and distance ourselves from them.

10. OLIVE BRANCH APOLOGY-This is where we feel there were wrongs on both sides, but we're going to be the bigger/better person and apologize first. If the other party, in return, apologizes for their behavior and is forgiving towards us, it's quite lovely.

Sometimes it doesn't go as well, though, as we plan.

I've had two incidents in the past few years where I extended an olive branch apology and the people  receiving it didn't apologize back to me. Their message was more along the lines of, We accept your apology; behave better in the future. Note: Same people in each incident, and one of these people is a gaslighter, so....

To be fair, though, I was thinking about it today and realized it's partly my fault.  If we're going to extend an Olive Branch Apology, it's probably better and more honest to say something like, I'm sorry we had that fight yesterday. I hate when we don't get along. That might get a better response than if we say, I'm sorry I yelled at you yesterday. I was in a bad mood.

I suppose another approach would be to apologize WHILE expressing your own grievances.  I'm sorry I yelled at you yesterday. I was in a bad mood. But it really bothered me when you gave me that bear hug. I've told you repeatedly that I don't like when people touch me that way.  

That apology might be confused with the victimhood apology I talked about in my previous post.  I think one way to distinguish the two is that with the Olive Branch Apology, the apologizer initiates the conversation. With a Victimhood Apology, the apologizer brings up his grievances after being confronted.

The thing swarming through my head right now is the question of how we should respond to apologies and how I want people to respond to my apologies.

The worst response is probably Sorry. I can't forgive you.  No wait. Below that would be, Go to hell or Fuck you.

But if someone says something like Apology accepted or I forgive you. Let's move on, I would feel a sort of rejection and coldness...even if my apology was NOT an olive-branch-apology.  Even if I truly felt I was the one to blame in the situation.

I think in most cases when someone apologizes to me, I end up saying sorry as well.  Even if it's something like, I'm sorry for getting so angry.  

I'm not sure why I do this. Maybe it's just because I like hearing that kind of thing when I'm the one who's done wrong and is apologizing. 

I think, in general, if someone apologizes to us and we've done nothing wrong in the situation, we're under no obligation to say sorry as well. We're also under no obligation to forgive them.  If there's any kindness we can extend to the apologizer, that's a gift we are giving to them.  That gift should be appreciated, but never expected.

If someone apologizes to us and we too have played a big part in creating the shit of the situation; then we should consider that the apology might be an Olive Branch Apology.  Then, I think it's nice if we say sorry too.

I was just thinking there's probably extremes on both sides. There are probably people who don't recognize Olive Branch Apologies, and also avoid taking any amount of blame in situations where they should. Then there are people who are horribly wronged and still take some blame.

 I'm sorry I was driving while drunk and hit you with my car. 

Well, that's okay. We all make mistakes.  And I'M sorry I was on the sidewalk that day. If I hadn't been daydreaming, maybe I would have heard your car coming towards me. 

11. FORCED-This is where someone apologizes because they are required to. An adult might have to do it to keep his job. A child might have to do it because otherwise her parents might take her Netflix away.

I think forced apologies might have minimal value in terms of legal situations.  I don't think they add much value to interpersonal relationships.  So...if a child shoplifts, it makes sense to me that the parents might force the child to return the item and say sorry to the shopkeeper.  If the child teases his cousin for her new haircut, I don't think a forced apology is going to help things.

Or...then again, maybe it will. Because the receiver of the apology might not know the apology was forced. They might take it as sincere.

It all seems a bit dishonest, though.

Also, if someone is forced to apologize, I think it's less likely they'll reflect on their behavior.  I think it's less likely there will be improvements in the relationship.

I'm more in support of pressure-to-apologize...pleading, maybe.  We might appeal to the child's empathy or if that doesn't work, practical issues. Well, if you don't say sorry, Jenny might not want you at her birthday party. And you know how you always love her parties.

Yikes. I think I'm saying that we should manipulate people into apologizing. Well, so be it.  As bad as manipulation is, it's probably better than direct force...in most cases.

OR...would that even be manipulation?  It's more like persuasion.  Persuasion doesn't always have to be manipulative, does it?

I'm going off on such a tangent here.

Back to Forced Apologies. I think one of the worst kinds is when someone is forced to apologize to someone who wasn't even upset about the behavior.  The enforcer does it because HE is offended by the behavior.  I'm trying to think of an example....

 Let's say a child burps at Christmas dinner.  This is done at the children's table.  All the children giggle hysterically.  His father gets angry, pulls the child aside, and forces the child to write an apology note to all the kids at the table.  Or even if it's done at the adult table...read the mood!  If most of the adults are laughing, there's no need for a formal, written apology.  If one adult looks disgusted, maybe later point this out to the child, and SUGGEST that she apologize to that particular adult.

Well....

I'm thinking more of the Olive Branch Apology. Is it a noble gesture as I've believed, or does it have a more darker, passive-aggressive purpose?

Should we apologize with an ulterior motive—an attempt to fish an apology out of the other person?

Maybe it depends on our feelings and intent.  If we truly feel both parties have misbehaved and we are strong enough to initiate the reconciliation; then it's pretty noble.  If we feel we are the ones who've been most wronged and are apologizing because we feel it's the one way to get the apology we seek: passive aggressive.  I'm pretty sure I've done the latter a few times in my life.

I'm trying to figure out what was going on in my head with the two Olive-Branch Apologies I mentioned earlier.  I think in the first, it was noble. I DID feel I was partly to blame. In the second, I think I was fishing for an apology from them.  I think I was slightly ashamed of my behavior, but the shame was much smaller than my lingering anger.