April 1, 2013

"We do find that apologies do make apologizers feel better..."

"... but the interesting thing is that refusals to apologize also make people feel better and, in fact, in some cases it makes them feel better than an apology would have.... When you refuse to apologize, it actually makes you feel more empowered.... That power and control seems to translate into greater feelings of self-worth."

When you think of not apologizing, what are your first 2 associations? Mine were:


1. "And I'm not sorry/It's human nature...."

2. Mitt Romney's book title: "No Apology." (Looking up that link, I'm noticing that Barry Goldwater wrote a book called "With No Apologies.")

Without revealing my associations, I asked Meade for his. He spouted 2 famous aphorisms, the first of which is not about not apologizing, the second of which is the no-apologies aphorism:

1. "It is much easier to apologize than it is to get permission."

2. "Never apologize — your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyway." Actually, Google seems to think this aphorism is "Never explain — your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyway."

I enjoyed that Google search, which led me to this line from "Paths of Glory" (written by Stanley Kubrick):

40 comments:

Nonapod said...

Leroy Jethro Gibbs always says to never apologize since it's a sign of weakness.

The Drill SGT said...

Captain Nathan Brittles: "Never apologize Mister, it's a sign of weakness"

ricpic said...

Never complain; never explain: words to live by, never explain being only a hair's breadth away from never apologize.

Jason said...

Otto. From "A Fish Called 'Wanda'"

traditionalguy said...
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traditionalguy said...
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traditionalguy said...

Again, no apology is needed or wanted for a boundary setting declaration. It helps both people.

But for losing ones temper and shouting in anger, than an apology helps the apologizer to set one free from the weight of anger being carried around.

m stone said...

Did you impersonate Kirk Douglas doing the Kubrick quote to Zeus, Ann?

That would be scary to a human.

Mitchell the Bat said...

I apologize for my very existence, constantly, whether anybody wants to hear it or not.

jr565 said...

Nonapod wrote:

Leroy Jethro Gibbs always says to never apologize since it's a sign of weakness.

saying you can never apologize is also a weakness.
He's right that apologizing too much does show weakness but sometimes even the strongest people are wrong and should say so.

jr565 said...

for example, Jethro Gibbs has a set of rules (I'm not that much of a follower of the show, I've just sent the show enough to know that its referenced.


Rule #51: Sometimes - you're wrong.[2]

If you're wrong then apologize. It's simply acknowledging that you're wrong.

Ann Althouse said...

"Did you impersonate Kirk Douglas doing the Kubrick quote to Zeus, Ann?"

Yes. Fortunately, Meade got the reference. But the dog had no way of knowing. I just seemed like I was yelling at Meade.

Ann Althouse said...

Meade served me a plate of bacon and eggs and picked up my book to make more room on the desk. I just Kirk'd "What right...?!" Meade laughed. Then I realized it couldn't possibly make sense to the dog.

It's like the way you can't say "fuck" once you have children in the house.

Nonapod said...

Well I was being somewhat facetious with the whole Gibbs thing, but I think there are times to apologize and times when it's not a good idea to. It's true that someone who is constantly apologizing can easily be seen as a weak fool, but someone who never apologizes even when they've committed a grievous mistake and/or really hurt someone is just an asshole or a sociopath.

sinz52 said...

I agree with the late Navy officer Grace Hopper:

If you believe your course of action is the right one, then it's better to do it and ask forgiveness later, rather than seek the permission of others whether to do it at all.

Bender said...

The one who refuses to apologize when wrong is called a psychopath. Unfortunately, we see a lot of those anti-social behaviors, especially in the political arena by those whose ideology is essentially anti-social, including those for whom the acquisition and use of power is primary, namely, those who see everything in terms of power, i.e. the left, for whom there is no right and wrong and, hence, nothing to ever apologize for.

Robert Cook said...

"Never explain" and "never apologize" seem like truly stupid and assholish axioms to live by. And who says your friends don't need apologies? If you are a dick to your friends you should apologize to them...or you prove you are not worth being friends with.

Bart said...

Paths of Glory is a great movie. I don't see it as anti-war, but anti-establishment, with the old line French general staff not caring about the soliders in the trenches, but self promotion.

My feelings on apologies is if you are righ don't apologize, but giving the impression you are wrong can work wonders in many situations.

n.n said...

Is this a review of Obama's administration? And by NPR of all corporations. Surely it must be April 1.

Bender said...

Meanwhile, those ignorant backwards religionists are out there preaching reconciliation and forgiveness, which requires an acknowledgement of wrongdoing and an affirmative expression of remorse and sorrow, i.e. an apology. With such reconciliation, with such forgiveness, with doing away with the harboring of grievances, peace among people is possible.

But such peace requires truth; it requires that one openly admit that he was wrong when he is wrong. Without such truth, without the desire for reconciliation, all we have is neverending rancor and bitterness and strife.

Shahid said...

Feeling empowered by not apologizing strikes me as a sociopathic trait. (This is assuming some harm took place, and you're not talking about an endlessly aggrieved person on the other side. The endlessly aggrieved are best avoided as their joylessness an be catching.)

In the day to day, I actually find an unreserved apology to be a very powerful trust build tool. When something has gone wrong, many people seem naturally inclined to:

1. find someone to blame
2. do their very hardest to ensure the blame falls on them

Meanwhile, at best nothing is rectified, and often mistakes pile up do to this blame game.

If I can find something real to apologize for, I can end this blame game by focusing the blame on myself so that the past can be understood, rectified, and we can move on.

(We all err, and sometimes those mistakes are more costly than others. Dwelling on mistakes, either in ourselves, or in others is a fool's game. A well done apology can remind people that most such mistakes are not the end of the world.)

Ignorance is Bliss said...

sinz52 said...

I agree with the late Navy officer Grace Hopper:

If you believe your course of action is the right one, then it's better to do it and ask forgiveness later, rather than seek the permission of others whether to do it at all.


Yeah, but she was instrumental in the development of COBOL, so she had a lot to ask forgiveness for.

whoresoftheinternet said...

Forgiveness is for suckers.

edutcher said...

The Lefties construe an apology as an admission you were wrong across the board, which is not always the case.

They use it as an instrument of humiliation.

jr565 said...

Nonapod wrote:
Well I was being somewhat facetious with the whole Gibbs thing, but I think there are times to apologize and times when it's not a good idea to.

don't get me wrong, I think Gibbs is more right than wrong. Apologizing too much does show weakness. It's just hat you shouldn't take it to the extreme of never apologizing EVER. you should only apologize if you are truly wrong and someone is hurt by your actions, but not as a default for every interaction.

jr565 said...
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jr565 said...

Even worse is the "never explain" idea. People are inscrutable, so if you never explain people often have no idea what you are trying to do.

If you are involved in a group, be it a military unit, or a business, not explaining yourself leads to redundancy or worse, mass confusion. If the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, that's not a sign of an efficiently run organization.

A little intuition is fine, but you shouldn't expect people to be mind readers.even if you have signals for things because you are trying to be covert , they are still signals that people understand and can so act accordingly.

This is assuming you are trying to cooperate with people and are engaged in a group dynamic. If you are by yourself or don't care to work as a team then I guess, there's no need to explain yourself.

Lucien said...

Paths of Glory -- FOr some reason, the melody from the song that the German girls sings at the end of the movie is something I have always been able to recall.

Lucien said...

How is it that every time we see a story about someone who has been wrongfully convicted, whether in some objectively foolish McMartinesque child abuse case, or in some other rape, murder type situation, the prosecutor who hid the Brady material, or intimidated the child witnesses into macking accusations or wahtever, nrvrt come forward and say "I was wrong, the guy was innocent, I'm glad he is now a free man"? Is it because they are always in, or seeking political office?

Robert Cook said...

Lucien said...

"How is it that every time we see a story about someone who has been wrongfully convicted, whether in some objectively foolish McMartinesque child abuse case, or in some other rape, murder type situation, the prosecutor who hid the Brady material, or intimidated the child witnesses into macking accusations or wahtever, nrvrt come forward and say 'I was wrong, the guy was innocent, I'm glad he is now a free man'? Is it because they are always in, or seeking political office?"

Exactly. They're careerist assholes and they'd rather persist in asserting the guilt of those who have been exonerated than risk "tarnishing" their reputations and careers, and "justice" can be damned.

Fucking prosecutors.

tim maguire said...

I'm more familiar with Meade's first aphorism as: it's easier to gain forgiveness than permission. My first two thoughts involving apologizing don't actually use the word:

1) holding a grudge is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.

2) most good deeds I do benefit me more than the other person.

rhhardin said...

Feeling better is the felix culpa. Levinas:

Pardon in its immediate sense is connected with the moral phenomenon of fault. The paradox of pardon lies in its retroaction; from the point of view of common time it represents an inversion of the natural order of things, the reversibility of time. It involves several aspects. Pardon refers to the instant elapsed; it permits the subject who had committed himself in a past instant to be as though that instant had not past on, to be a though he had not committed himself. Active in a stronger sense than forgetting, which does not concern the reality of the event forgotten, pardon acts upon the past, somehow repeats the event, purifying it. But in addition, forgetting nullifies the relations with the past, whereas pardon conserves the past pardoned in the purified present. The pardoned being is not the innocent being. The difference does not justify placing innocence above pardon; it permits the discerning in pardon of a surplus of happiness, the strange happiness of reconciliation, the *felix culpa*, given in an everyday experience which no longer astonishes us.

The paradox of the pardon of fault refers to pardon as constitutive of time itself. The instants do not link up with one another indifferently, but extend from the Other unto me. The future does not come to me from a swarming of indistinguishable possibles which would flow toward my present and which I would grasp; it comes to me across an absolute interval whose other shore the Other absolutely other--though he be my son--is alone capable of marking, and of connecting with the past...


Levinas, _Totality and Infinity_ p.283

Not apologizing feeling better has to do with the logical status of an apology. Goffman:

``A further illustration of the difference between ritual concerns and substantive ones comes from occasions of accident in which the carelessness of one individual is seen as causing injury or death to another. Here there may be no way at all to compensate the offended, and no punishment may be prescribed. All that the offend[er] can do is say he is sorry. And this expression itself may be relatively little open to gradation. The fact - at least in our society - is that a very limited set of ritual enactments are available for contrite offenders. Whether one runs over another's sentence, time, dog, or body, one is more or less reduced to saying some variant of ``I'm sorry.'' The variation in degree of anguish expressed by the apologizer seems a poor reflection of the variation in loss possible to the offended. In any case, while the original infraction may be quite substantive in its consequence, the remedial work, however vociferous, is in these cases still largely expressive. And there is a logic to this. After an offense has occurred, the job of the offender is to show that it was not a fair expression of his attitude, or, when it evidently was, to show that he has changed his attitude to the rule that was violated. In the latter case, his job is to show that whatever happened before, he now has a right relationship - a pious attitude - to the rule in question, _and this is a matter of indicating a relationship, not compensating a loss_

_Relations in Public_ ``Remedial Interchanges'' p.117-118

Sigivald said...

Apologize when you think you did something wrong, even if you got praised for it.

Don't apologize when you think you did something right, even if it made people angry*.

(This might be the only time the "I'm sorry you're mad" pseudo-apology is appropriate, and only when phrased like "I realize people are angry about this, and I wish that was avoidable, but I believe the choice was Morally Preferable to the other options.")

Smilin' Jack said...

Actually, Google seems to think this aphorism is "Never explain — your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyway."

Was that in the article on Goedel?

Anyway, when someone is offended by something I say or do, I feel that my apology should not only be sincere, but should also show some empathy for the other person's perception of the situation.

As in, "I'm sorry you're so stupid. Were you perhaps kicked in the head by a horse as a child, or were you just born that way?"

SOJO said...

Apologize if you actually mean it - it's not about you, it's about the person you are apologizing to. If you betrayed someone or were truly horrible to them, it will do something. Why wouldn't you?

Do NOT apologize if you don't mean it - then it just cheapens your real apologies. You're just adding lying to the list.

This isn't hard, is it?


Writ Small said...

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," right?

The sincerest form of apology is when all your future actions reflect that the other person was right and you were wrong.

If you go so far as to unthinkingly adopt the wronged party's perspective, even better!

Susan Stewart Rich said...

The LDS church (not apologizing) and the LDS church (not receiving an apology)

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Only accept an apology when the person is truly contrite and honest.

Just saying "I'm sorry" and not really meaning it is just adding insult to injury. If you are sorry you will never do whatever the offense is again.

Saying I'm sorry I offended you is also unacceptable. That makes the offended person a part of the problem and is deflecting the harm or hurt that you did off to another without accepting your own actions.

An apology to just 'make nice' or to deflect earned criticism is worthless. Actually less than worthless.

Inga said...

As several others have said, apologize only when you truly mean it.

Nope not hard at all, SOJO.

dustbunny said...

Lucien,Kubrick married the German girl who sings the song you remember so well.