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I'm (Not) Sorry: Nuanced Apologies

By Renee Burns Lonner

Any simpleton can deliver the basic “I’m sorry for my behavior, it was wrong” in the appropriate way.

But maybe you don’t wanna do that because now you’re angrier than you were to start with and you feel pressured into apologizing. Or rather, feel bullied into apologizing by your halo-polishing friends. You need a strategy that will take care of business and make your friends who think they know everything shut up. A plan that shows your excellent social skills and keen sense of right and wrong.

Simply put, here are some ideas for handling the narrative when assuming responsibility is just not an option:

  1. Perfect placement of the “but” or “if” as in (a) “I’m sorry but how could I know that your sister would overhear my comment that I had vegetables in my fridge with more personality than her new boyfriend?” (b) “I’m sorry that my dog thought your cockatiel was a chew toy, but you should not have let it out while we were visiting! And aren’t those useless little poop machines supposed to fly and not walk on the ground?” (c) “I’m sorry if your feelings were hurt and your insecurity was activated by my sleeping with your boyfriend — for god’s sake, it only happened once! He’s terrible in bed.” You get the idea, moving on.
  2. Timing — apology delivered as other person headed out the door to a medical appointment they have anticipated anxiously for weeks. The night before a major business presentation is also a good choice.
  3. Physical space — apology delivered in a normal volume, but two rooms away with the television blaring in one of them. Then respond to the “excuse me, what?” with the apology screamed. Once.
  4. Tone — apology delivered with anger and resentment. OK, so the anger and resentment may border on sneering, but the words are correct!
  5. Medium — apology delivered by brief text, followed immediately by turning on the “do not disturb” function on your phone. That little genius function is to be left on for 24 hours.
  6. Context — apology delivered in a whisper while at a funeral, and recipient cannot respond without drawing undue attention. The best timing here is during an emotional speech by an immediate family member because your whisper will be covered by all the crying.

Easy, right? Because you have feelings, too, and they have no idea how you have suffered over what you should say and how you should say it.

They do not care about your totally normal need for (constant) self-care or how much you give to the world and all your friends.

You are truly one of the most generous, considerate, and kind people that you know. They are so selfish and self-centered they can’t even put themselves in your shoes and see how painful the past several days have been for you.

F**k them, hope they die.

— Renee Burns Lonner

Renee Burns Lonner is a consultant for television newsrooms and a licensed therapist based in Los Angeles. Prior to the pandemic, her published work was serious; the pandemic created the need for comic relief and last fall she published her first humor book, If You Give A Man a Tesla: A Parody.

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