Tag Archives: responsibility

How to apologize properly

An example

There was a young couple from Moscow somewhere in 1970th. They just got married. Wealthy enough family helped them to fetch an apartament (all the things in USSR were not bought, but rather fetched through your connections). They had nice furniture, wallpapers. Rare occasion: they even had a car, which was parked in the inner yard of their condo.

Once upon a time on a weekend morning, one of them went to the balcony and noticed that car is gone. They called the cops. A day passed. Next morning the car is back. The guy inspects the car, it’s all right, full of gasoline, all the things are in place but one note: “We’re sorry, we urgently needed a car”. As a compensation, two tickets to a theater were there for the same evening.

The couple was excited by the honor of the unknown thieves and went to the performance. When they’ve returned home they’ve discovered that apartment is empty – no furniture, no tech, even the wallpapers were stolen.

Apologies in my life

The example from the above clearly demonstrates: apologizing is used to seek value for the apologizing side. In normal circumstances that happens mostly by protecting the apologizing side from anger / retaliation.

“Darling, I’m sorry about talking to your mom that way. Can I have my Xbox back, please?”

By apologizing, people expect the responsibility for the consequences of their actions to be waived.

Why? Because it’s a social norm, right?

That does not work well with me

My time here is limited.  I don’t feel good trading resources for broken promises. So relationships where I hear word ‘Sorry’ frequently enough quickly deteriorate.

fuck off guy

Another algorithm

I research a bit and found an algorithm which makes me feel much better.

1. Acknowledge your responsibility
– “I’ve screwed up. That was improper of me to tell your mother she’s a which.”

2. Reveal your intentions
– “I didn’t mean it to happen like this.”

3. Maintain the responsibility for your actions
– “How can I fix this? How can I repay your losses?”

< Here goes active listening session >

4. Give a promise and deliver on it.
– “Ok, I will book 5 sessions with therapist which we will visit both with your mother”

Please take care to state it in SMART fashion to raise the chances.

4a. What if I feel like not paying the cost of the fix?
Negotiate. Be open and tell that thing contradicts your interests.
– “Darling, I value our relationships, but I’m not ready to commit to spending the whole week with your mother”


You probably noticed that apologizing this way is much more expensive compared to usual “I’m sorry”.

That’s how it works. Not delivering on a contract and being dragged to court has a clear associated cost.

Romans had lead water pipes which slowly poisoned them. Apologizing like an asshole has a similar effect. If you break a contract, you get a refreshing court order. If you break your words every week, you’re just not invited to cool gigs like other people are, even though you’re much more capable.

Please don’t use this trick to rob people of their belongings. Rather, use it to create more awesome stuff together!

Winter is coming. May your relationships be productive and warm.

P.S. Vadym, I remember I owe you a steak : )