How to Apologize and Not Sound Like a Douche Doing It

The nice thing about growing up with low self-esteem and extreme insecurities is that I have gotten pretty good at apologizing, even for things that I’m not actually responsible for. After seeing the Lululemon founder Chip Wilson and the “What’s Your Excuse” model Maria Kang issue pitiful apologies, I have realized that these PR nightmares are not very knowledgeable on how one goes about apologizing.

It is very easy to come across as sincere when  apologizing. The best way to do this is to keep the apology short and sweet. Just say, “I’m sorry.” Two words. Not hard right? Look down at the ground or sound sincere to keep the person that you are apologizing to thinking that you might actually mean it, even if you really don’t. The problem most people have when apologizing is that they go ahead and apologize “for” something. With Kang, her “for” was one of the rudest “for”‘s that I have ever come across:

I’m sorry you took an image and resonated with it in such a negative way. I won’t go into details that I struggled with my genetics, had an eating disorder, work full time owning two business’, have no nanny, am not naturally skinny and do not work as a personal trainer. I won’t even mention how I didn’t give into cravings for ice cream, french fries or chocolate while pregnant or use my growing belly as an excuse to be inactive.

What I WILL say is this. What you interpret is not MY fault. It’s Yours. The first step in owning your life, your body and your destiny is to OWN the thoughts that come out of your own head. I didn’t create them. You created them. So if you want to continue ‘hating’ this image, get used to hating many other things for the rest of your life. You can either blame, complain or obtain a new level of thought by challenging the negative words that come out of your own brain.

Basically, she gave people who were offended a big old “fuck you” and it made those people hate her even more. With Wilson’s apologized, he apologized for the people who work for the company who were harmed by his words and not for the words that he said or the people who buy his product that were upset over the words. This comes across as dismissive. It also comes across as a good excuse not to buy yoga pants from the company he founded. Basically, it was a bad business move.

If you add on to the apology, try to say something that is actually respectful to the offended/harmed party. Don’t apologize to people who weren’t upset by what you did. And keep the passive-aggressive attitude out of it. If the person or group that you were apologizing to comes away even more offended, then your apology has failed; and you, by extension, have failed.

Try to avoid saying things that you don’t mean. If you’re lying during an apology, people can tell. If you’re going to issue a dishonest apology, then you should try to give a gift or donate something to a charity to keep the angsty reactions from getting out of control. Of course, buying people off doesn’t always work, because a lot of folks get offended by people trying to buy them off.

If you’re pretty sure that what you did was just a simple misunderstanding and you’re feeling completely unapologetic, then say something like, “there was a misunderstanding” or “there was a failure to communicate properly” so that you can, hopefully, avoid giving people even more of a reason to hate you. Then explain what you actually meant; do this very carefully, especially since you already have shown that you suck at communicating with another human being without making them want to punch you in the face. You don’t want to  dig yourself a bigger hole, so just explain what you really mean, don’t piss the other party off, and then don’t act like a douche while doing this. It isn’t exactly going to please anyone, but it might keep them from abandoning your product or plotting your demise.

About Janet Morris

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama. I've got as many college credits as a doctorate candidate, and the GPA of some of them, too. I have a boss by the name of Amy Pond. She's a dachshund. My parents both grew up in Alabama.