Apologising 101

apologizeWe’re all wrong sometimes. The key to our character lies in how we cope with that. An apology can go a long way to righting our wrongs, but, says El, only if we mean it. 

I had some, shall we say, ‘interesting’ interactions with another writer a few days ago. Now, I can’t say I take criticism perfectly myself, I’m a human being, I get defensive. I think almost everyone does. However, there are ways to deal with criticism, and this writer chose one of the worst. They felt it necessary to engage in a very public, rather unbecoming, debacle that took the form of a facebook thread.

I usually try to stay out of such things unless there’s a potential story in it, or some genuine discussion to be had, as changing the minds of strangers on the internet is generally only worthwhile if one is being paid to attempt it, but this writer had a number of mutual acquaintances and had attended at least one of the same events, and so, I Went In.

I won’t go into the specifics of the argument, but it followed a pattern that I have seen a lot with less experienced writers who suddenly find themselves floundering in a land they aren’t used to. These are people whose writing usually only reaches friends and family who blow metaphorical smoke up their arses and claim their writing is the best thing since Chaucer. These are people who suddenly find themselves dismayed when they reach the point of dealing with people who do this ‘writing’ business ‘professionally’, be they bloggers, journalists, critics, or publishers.

I’m not talking about the likes of Zoe Quinn and GamerGate, where an experienced and talented writer was mobbed by a hate group, subjected to some extreme threats of violence, and harassed for months at a time. I mean situations where someone’s writing isn’t quite up to snuff – whether it’s just on the basis of their (lack of) skill alone, the opinions they propagate about an oppressed group, or if it’s on the basis of their journalistic integrity (again, the ‘ethics in games journalism’ dogwhistle notwithstanding), and they respond to criticism badly, often publicly.

When their writing does not meet the response they wished for, they lash out. Defensiveness becomes anger, a combination of hurt feelings and self-righteousness leads them to do one of two things. The first option, A) is attacking others. These are the writers that hurl insults and send threats to people who critique them, or who refuse to publish or promote their work, (and yes, that happens more often than we’d like). The second, B) is to play the victim. These people deny any wrongdoing, claim that they’re being ‘personally attacked’ when criticised, and often (usually after they’ve been called on promoting oppressive behaviour) offer a cursory and insincere apology before accusing others of being bullies and hiding behind the excuse that being called on their harmful words or actions hurts their feelings.

Personally, I think Group A are largely a lost cause. Group A are the tantrum-throwing adult-children we’ve all encountered throughout our lives, and if nothing so far has managed to change their tendencies, I’m woefully unprepared to try. I simply accept dealing with them as the cost of living in the real world, brush them off, file their work in the bin, add their name to the blacklist, and move on with my life.

However, to Group B, I have to say something. Criticism from your peers and from your readers is not a personal attack. If you’re hurting people, those people have every right to demand a sincere apology. The word ‘sorry’ alone means nothing.

When you say sorry, but you make no real attempt to atone for your behaviour or to make amends, your insincerity shines through like a giant neon flashing sign that says “NO FUCKS GIVEN HERE.”

When you say sorry, but you refuse to accept responsibility for the harm you’ve done, that’s not an apology. When you say sorry, but you make no real attempt to atone for your behaviour or to make amends, your insincerity shines through like a giant neon flashing sign that says “NO FUCKS GIVEN HERE.” When you say sorry, and then you take steps to change your behaviour, change your thought processes, change the way you interact with other human beings in order to do less harm to other people? That’s a damn good start. That said, no one is under any obligation to accept your apology, no matter how good or genuine it is.

Being a better person should be all the reason you need to reassess your thoughts, feelings, and actions on a given subject, and it should definitely be all the reason you need to reconsider how you interact with other people.

The following two tabs change content below.

Eloise Nicholson

Eloise Nicholson is an agender bisexual activist, musician, visual artist, and writer. They live in Norwich, England with 3 cats and a long-suffering Netflix subscription, where they spend a lot of time plotting the downfall of white-supremacist capitalist cisheteropatriarchy.

Latest posts by Eloise Nicholson (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *