A 12 step guide to a perfect non-apology
December 29, 2017 1:08 PM   Subscribe

Sorry if... sorry you... - A 12 step guide to a perfect non-apology. (Toby Morris, The Spinoff)

Toby Morris previously on the blue:
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posted by Start with Dessert (15 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Related: Amber Ruffin shows Seth Meyers how to apologize like a sexual harasser, via Vox, who have a summary for folks who can't view the YouTube video.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:05 PM on December 29, 2017 [6 favorites]

Just a point of reference here -- this strategy laid out here has 12 steps. Cool.

But it has absolutely nothing in common with any sincere apology -- offered alongside the willingness to make amends for harms done -- offered by a member of any 12 step program that I've ever seen.

I've known any number of people in various 12 step programs, and if they are doing the work suggested in those programs they're not going to shuffle the blame off onto anyone else.
posted by dancestoblue at 3:26 PM on December 29, 2017

But it has absolutely nothing in common with any sincere apology -- offered alongside the willingness to make amends for harms done -- offered by a member of any 12 step program that I've ever seen.
Um. That's sort of a bit the point. The comic describes the kind of non-apology offered by people who are not in any way contrite, a common tactic of the Twitter troll and their real-world right-wing demagogue counterpart...
posted by prismatic7 at 3:59 PM on December 29, 2017 [9 favorites]

Yeah, that's why it's a NON-apology.
posted by sarcasticah at 4:49 PM on December 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

I recall this post from 2012 about Jason Alexander's apology for making homophobic jokes about cricket. I remember it now because at the time a lot of mefites commented that Jason got it right and it was a genuine apology.

His open letter apology is here.
posted by adept256 at 4:50 PM on December 29, 2017 [7 favorites]

The comic's only flaw was allowing itself to be confused with REAL 12-step programs. If I had written it, I'd have gone with either "11 steps" or "13 steps".
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:57 PM on December 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

"I don't know what my acquaintance has done to upset you, but it has nothing to do with me..." -Withnail-style apology, then runs away.
posted by ovvl at 5:10 PM on December 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

They left out the explanation, where the person explains what lead to the bad thing happening, without ever actually apologizing for it. Apologies should stand alone, separate from the explanation, or else it ends up sounding like an excuse.

In 1988, the Speaker of the German Christian Democratic Party gave a speech on the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht where he tried to explain why Germans were enthusiastic about Hitler.

It was a complete and utter public relations disaster for him, his career, and for Germany.
posted by eye of newt at 7:11 PM on December 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

Is it just me, or does the guy look kinda like an overweight Matt Damon?
posted by filthy_prescriptivist at 9:04 PM on December 29, 2017


So while this comic is a handy shorthand for what to expect when receiving a non-apology, it's a rendering of NZ right-wing blogger Cameron Slater and criticism of his modus operandi.
posted by Start with Dessert at 9:29 PM on December 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

From Jason Alexander's apology, which does seem miles better than most, these bits still jumped out at me:

My daily life is filled with gay men and women, both socially and professionally.

And to the extent that these jokes made anyone feel even more isolated or misunderstood or just plain hurt – please know that was not my intention, at all or ever.

posted by gottabefunky at 11:25 PM on December 29, 2017

I always disliked the apologies that simply involved the word "sorry" as the entirety of the apology.. no context, no acknowledgment of responsibility, nothing but "sorry". To me, that's the biggest non-apology. well it's tied with "sorry but I couldn't have done anything else" as if the person apologizing was commanded by God himself and was powerless to do anything else. As if they were some kind of robot with no free will.
posted by some loser at 5:49 AM on December 30, 2017

Frankly, at this point I hate all public apologies and it's impossible for me to imagine one that I find satisfying. Apologies are conversations, and they take place between people, over time. The only way an apology really works is if the person who is on the receiving end of it has the chance to reject it, at least for a while, for no reason at all. I feel like most real apologies take place in stages.

"I'm sorry."

"I get that you're sorry but I'm still mad, I'm not over this yet. Go away. I need time."

[[Time goes by]]"I'm sorry."

"I know you're sorry you hurt me, but do you understand why what you did hurt me? [[Explanation]]"

"Yes, I'm sorry. [[Conversation in which the person makes it clear they've heard what the other person is saying]]"

"I believe you're sorry, but I'm still scared it will happen again. How do I know it won't?"

"[[Conversation where they talk about that.]]"

"Okay, I accept your apology."

First, it's a back and forth. Second, it takes effort to successfully and genuinely accept an apology. You don't just stand there and receive; you engage with the person. And you know what? That's totally optional. For any apology to be truly meaningful, it has to be made, on both sides, by choice. If someone hurts you and you don't want to accept their apology, you shouldn't have to! And if you hurt someone and you aren't ready to engage in that full process with them, you shouldn't have to do that either, because in a functioning society, forgiveness is separate from justice. It should be totally legit, if someone hurts you, for you to be able to say, "Fuck off forever, I don't want you in my life anymore or ever to engage with you again," and for the person to nonetheless face consequences, and to pay those consequences, and feel that essentially they've done their "time," so to speak.

But because there are no actual consequences for sexual harassment, we're trying to make the apology take on a role it was never meant to serve; where someone causes harm and then they say exactly the right thing in exactly the right way, and then the people they hurt feel better and they're allowed to re-enter society immediately with no one holding any grudges and like nothing ever happened.

Of course it doesn't work! These apologies could get better and better and better, and be even more and more perfectly worded, and we'd all still be fucking mad...and some of us would be ready to forgive at one point, and others wouldn't, and the ones who weren't would be angry at the ones who were, and even if there emerged a truly flawless apology that genuinely encapsulated everything anyone had ever wanted from an apology and we decided to all go watch Louis CK shows again or whatever, the people Louis CK actually harassed would be justified in being furious, because who the fuck cares if he wrote the most genuinely apology on the face of the planet; he still ought to pay real consequences but no one really even knows what those are.

I guess what I'm saying is: apologies are requests for mercy. But mercy - and apologies - will always be incomplete without justice.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 8:18 AM on December 30, 2017 [13 favorites]

"please know that was not my intention, at all or ever."

I don't know, I think it's okay to talk about intention when you are taking responsibility for the outcome. Intentions do matter, someone who does something hurtful thoughtlessly is very different from someone who does something hurtful with malice aforethought. There's also a big difference between, "I didn't intend this to be hurtful, so don't be mad at me" and "I didn't intend this to be hurtful, but clearly it was, and now I understand why, and I'm sorry, and I will do better."

I also think the latter can be a very human expression of vulnerability and error -- we've all had the experience where you say something stupid without meaning any harm, realizing you did harm, and waking up at 3 a.m. for years after thinking, "oh my god, I'm such a fucking jerk." When someone apologizing to me says, "I didn't intend to be hurtful, but wow was I hurtful," I actually feel better about that apology, because it's really easy to say, "I didn't mean to hurt your feelings! Why are you so mad? Learn to take a joke!" and it's really hard to say, "I didn't mean to hurt you but oh my god I did and I am the worst," because that is a terrible human feeling and our first instinct is to protect ourselves by insisting that lack of malice absolves us. For someone to recognize that they had non-malicious intentions but a horrible outcome, and to take responsibility for that, takes a certain amount of maturity and involves confronting one of the most uncomfortable forms of remorse.

It's not a perfect apology, because it's really easy for "My INTENTION wasn't to do X" to shade into "and therefore if you're mad you're wrong and bad and persecuting me." And if someone finds intention-related stuff in apologies to be universally gauche I am down with that and respect their opinion. But me personally, I am okay with "my intention was good, but my action was wrong, and now I see that and will do better," especially when it is followed with actually doing better.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:33 PM on December 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

Yeah I think the intention bit is fine in the context of a legit apology. People just try to use it on its own to dodge admitting that they did anything wrong.
posted by atoxyl at 3:43 PM on January 1

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