Your comprehensive guide to issuing an apology when you have upset someone online, be it Facebook, Twitter, or an email to dear Aunt Sally. Study it. Memorize it. There will be a test later.
- Be online.
- Make a mistake. This is not difficult. If you have covered #1, you are guaranteed to say something stupid/misinformed/offensive.
- Become aware of your mistake. This one isn’t all that hard, either. If a dozen experts (or even ONE) on a subject presents a counter-argument, there’s a chance you are wrong. Maybe do research at this point.
- Grow a pair. Pair could refer to whatever thing you associate with courage. Could be kittens for all I care. Just get you some courage.
- Say these words: “You were right.” or “I was wrong.” Use these phrases together for additional sincerity.
- Also say these words: : “I am sorry.” Another variation could be “I apologize.” Yes. This step is necessary. I know. You already said #5. I know. Just say you’re sorry.
- Demonstrate that you are, in fact, sorry. Do accomplish this task, you should say, well, nothing. Don’t say anything at all.
- Continue to say nothing. I know. You just wanted to explain tha-
9. Say even less than you did in #8. Remember #5? You were stupid/offensive/misinformed. You were. You. I’m looking at you. I know you said sorry. But sorry doesn’t fix stuff immediately. If I eat your pet canary, a simple apology doesn’t make Tweety any less dead. There will be some grief, some anger, perhaps a tiny little funeral to arrange, and it’s likely you don’t want to see me again for a while. Maybe not ever. Some stakes are higher than others.
10. Make your peace with the fact that not everyone is going to like you. Actually, this should be #1, but it’s the one we all tend to blow off, so I buried it here so you wouldn’t ignore it. I’m tricky like that. The hardest part about this one is understanding that in this case, people are in the not-liking phase of you because of something you did. Ouch. Reflect on it. Sit with it.
11. Read the responses. Not to your apology. I mean the responses to your original mistake. Understand not just that people ARE upset, but get to the heart of WHY. If you don’t make an effort to learn the why, you are pretty much guaranteed to repeat your error, and that’s bad. This part’s hard because the instinct is to argue more or to tuck our tails and RUN. Do not attempt to answer until you are strong enough to respond ONLY with the words “I understand,” “I am sorry,” “You are right,” or “I was wrong.” You will feel like your brain is on fire and your eyeballs are melting, but I promise you will live.
12. Come to grips with the most painful realization in the world: Not everyone cares what you think.
13. Do better.