Does anyone else feel like you need to start every conversation with an apology? I mean, we all know that everyone is stretched beyond the limits we previously thought we had established as the most we could do, yet I still find myself starting conversations with a disclaimer or a pre-apology if I offend anyone. You know the kind. When we start off with things like, “Today sure has been a long week,” or, “I may be a little extra crabby today, so I’m sorry if I come across as mean.”
This is an interesting phenomenon, and it is one that has fascinated me forever. I have always been one of those people that says, “I’m sorry,” for every little thing yet has a hard time when it is a big thing. This concept of apologizing when it isn’t needed is strange, but fits in with the phenomenon of the pre-apology. So today I am asking the question. I truly want an answer, because I have some theories and I would love to see if any of them resonate with anyone else.
I was raised a good southern girl. I was taught manners by my mother, had them reinforced by my grandmother, and was ultimately sent to Charm School in high school. I know how to throw a party, set a table, carry on a conversation, present myself in public, etc. Along with that came a good amount of watching the people around me be hospitable to the point of walking on themselves before others could. I have seen people say sorry for the smallest things that they truly have no control over. I am absolutely guilty of doing this same thing, and have been guilty of it my whole life. I’m pretty sure it drives David nuts because I apologize for things like tonight when I discovered the power strip for the sound bar was turned off. I apologized for it, but he is the one that turned it off. What in the world am I actually saying sorry for when I didn’t have anything to do with the event? My theory on this one is that I am not apologizing for an actually occurrence, but instead I am apologizing that someone was inconvenienced or upset. It is an apology for feelings, not actions.
The pre-apology seems to be gaining ground lately, and I am watching it happen more and more around me. We are all stretched well beyond anything we are able to deal with, and tensions seem to be running at an all time high. I have also noticed that there seem to be 2 different things that happen with the pre-apology. 1 thing that I have seen happen is the person that gives the pre-apology really is over-tired or over-stressed and that person seems to be truly trying to be cordial and not snippy, but may or may not be succeeding. This type of pre-apologist I look at in much the same way as the apology for a feeling instead of an action. I don’t necessarily have a problem with what is happening, but am a little disturbed that we feel we have to start with a pre-apology. The other thing that I am seeing happen more and more often is when someone starts with a pre-apology, then continues on with words or actions that are deliberately harmful and hurtful to others under the premise of being stressed or tired. This type of pre-apology is one that I have a huge problem with and it seems to be happening more and more often as we get further into 2020.
Do you ever just wonder what happened to being kind to one another? When did it become more acceptable to give what I consider an empty pre-apology and then put people on blast? There are many arguments about what is contributing to this, and I’ll save those for another day. What I won’t save for another day is that I am tired of hateful. I am over spiteful. What happened to simple kindness? When did we forget that ALL of us are human, regardless of our different opinions?
Then there is the problem that I notice more and more in that we are able to do these small apologies all over the place for nothing, and we are also able to do the pre-apology. What we seem to have a hard time with is an actual meaningful apology for a serious wrong that has been committed either in word or action. Friendships are breaking up all over the place because words have been said and no one will come forward and acknowledge the wrong with an apology. I am not saying that everything can be fixed or even should be fixed with a simple apology, but I sure do see a ton of things that need apologies from multiple sides. When did we become people that will just pack our stuff and go home so we don’t have to see differing opinions? When did the common decency in disagreement turn into a battlefield?
I have watched friendships dissolve this week over an election. The latest thing I am seeing is an event on facebook to leave facebook for some other platform that promises to be uncensored freedom of speech. I don’t know about you, but after reading the things that have been written the past 6 months about politics, pandemics, education, and so many other things I don’t want to see what uncensored looks like.
So I have an idea. How about we stop apologizing when it isn’t really necessary and start apologizing when it is hard? What if we stopped apologizing because someone was mildly inconvenienced by something we had no control over and started apologizing for hurtful words that we said? What would happen if instead of dividing ourselves yet again so that we are surrounded by people that we agree with we decided to recognize humanity in those we don’t agree with and find common ground?
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the world doesn’t feel like people are just mean to everyone else. I don’t know how we got here, or if I am the only person watching and feeling like a lost sheep in a pack of wolves. I compared the world the other day to middle school. That time during adolescence when children/tweenagers/teenagers/young adults are cruel in the ways that they treat each other and talk to each other. I want out of middle school. I want to have discussions where I don’t have to agree with the other person and we are still friends.
As someone who is a 2 on the Enneagram, an empathetic soul, and wants nothing more than peace, this world is giving me a headache. Even worse, it is breaking my heart. To those who I have hurt in the past, whether it was intentional or not, I am truly sorry. To those who feel they have no place to turn, come find me. We may not agree, but at the end of the day we can still be friends and have great conversations. And to those who just want to fight, argue, and speak nastiness to those who don’t agree with you, I’m truly sorry that you are so unhappy.