Wannabe Martha

Still trying to figure out which Martha

A Little Lesson in Social Etiquette – Apologies 101

“Insincerity is, in fact, tantamount to lying.”

I read that phrase a really long time ago (most likely in a romance novel, of all things- HA) and it’s always struck me as the absolute truth – particularly when it comes to apologies.

I propose that whenever one hears the word “IF” in conjunction with an apology, one ought to substitute “as long as”.

“I’m sorry IF you were offended by what I said” becomes “I’m sorry as long as you were offended – otherwise, I’m not.”

Slick, ain’t it?

By employing the conditional, “IF”, the apologizer neutralizes the apology and dismisses his/her own culpability for the egregious speech/actions.   It actually makes the apology conditional upon the response of the injured party.

When people apologize with an “IF” they’re not sorry and not regretful and that “IF” just indicated disdain for you.  It’s not an apology – it’s pandering – an attempt to weasel out of being caught.  It’s a verbal backhand to the face.  Don’t accept it.

So how does one tell if an apology is sincere?  Well how about this… “I’m very sorry FOR having hurt you with my unkind words.  Please accept my apology.”  Now, that’s an actual apology.  I take responsibility for my actions (you can tell because I used the word “FOR”); I don’t try to mitigate the situation.  I don’t try to lay any sort of responsibility on “you”.

Today’s lesson in social etiquette is now over.

Please resume your regularly scheduled fun for the day.


Weaving Tangled Webs

A million years ago I was in graduate school studying to become a teacher.  I remember some bits and pieces of various classes, but there was one particular class which has stayed with me.  The professor was conducting a lesson about writing – specifically how to teach writing skills to high school aged kids.  The lesson employed an excellent exercise to illustrate the following point:   “When you write something and send it out, you are not there to explain what you meant.  You must, therefore, take great care with your choice of words.  If you leave room for interpretation, expect that many will impose their own  and will come away with some message other than the one you intended to convey.”

In this day and age of blogging and commenting and twittering and facebooking and texting and e-mailing  – an explosion of often spontaneously WRITTEN conversations – such advice should be ferociously embraced.  All too often we leave our words open to interpretation and our meaning, our intent may become irrevocably lost.  That first reading is much like a first impression – lasting and nearly impossible to overcome.

There is a place I like to hang out where conflict has erupted.  It is ugly and painful to read and it is fundamentally that several individuals are misinterpreting each other’s words and digging in their heels.

I will need to take greater care to heed my own advice.