To the ‘If’s and But’s’ Apologisers

I’m a laid back kind’a Libran. My boundary between what is and isn’t acceptable is a wide one. Something can encroach into my boundary, to a certain point, and I’ll debate with myself whether to challenge it or not. Once it passes over the line on this side of the boundary I will take action.

The other day I took myself off into town for a cuppa and a general peruse of the main street of our town.

I do this at irregular intervals to, a – make sure I’m still occupying the same reality as most of the world around me, (a side effect of writing SF set in all sorts of otherworldly locations) and b – to observe human interactions for character fodder. I usually end up in my favourite cafe for a bracing chai latte before heading back to Widderlake and my own multi-universes.

The cafe was fairly full. A couple caught my attention. They’d chosen to sit at one of those low-table-and-overstuffed-armchair combinations that force you to speak louder than you otherwise might in order to be heard by the other person who’s at least a meter away.

These two were in trouble. An argument had ensued and they were now trying to put some pieces back together. She was a bit teary and he sounded exasperated.

At one point the entire room heard him blurt out, “I’m sorry! I apologise if I’ve hurt you, but …”

I wanted to roll up my newspaper and smack him behind the ear!

And this is why …

Every time I come across a politician, sportsperson, celebrity, etc, attempting to apologise for their behaviour, whether it be the thought-less drivel that comes out of their mouth or their actions, I cringe, waiting for the qualifier.

It’s not only the folk with a public profile who do this, it’s rife within our whole society.

There’s a huge discussion on why we as a culture, have created these qualifiers, that I’m not going to get into here. That’s not what this post is about. I do have my opinions, and if anyone’s interested, mention it in the ‘comments’ section and we can have the discussion there. I welcome all points of view, but lets keep it on topic and above the waistline, eh?


My two favourite qualifiers? ‘If’ and ‘But’.

When you apologise for something you’ve done or said, don’t start like this … “If I’ve done anything to offend and/or hurt you …”

The reality is, that if you feel the need to apologise, then by definition, and rational or not, justified or not, you have already offended and/or hurt the person you’re apologising to!

This is a sneaky back door exit strategy to avoid accepting the consequences of your behaviour.

And then there’s … “I’m sorry, but I didn’t mean… (fill in the excuse of your choice here)

Adding the ‘but I didn’t … (excuse)’ on to your apology is only about making you feel better, it’s got nothing to do with the person you’re apologising to, so don’t dump it on them, and expect them to understand, or make you feel better about your actions. That’s not their job, it’s yours. Explain later, if, when, and where it’s appropriate.


Back to the cafe scene – the young woman stopped crying and (although I had my back to them, I imagined her glaring daggers at him) stormed out. I watched her get into her car (probably hers, seeing as she had the keys) and drive off.

I left soon after and wondered if she ever returned for him or whether he’s still sitting there, trying to figure out what it was he said.


“Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight” Phyllis Diller,1917-2012, actress and comedienne

13 comments on “To the ‘If’s and But’s’ Apologisers

  1. I agree about the if’s and but’s type of apologies. Just say, “I’m sorry” and mean it. By the way, I went over and registered for the conference. Thanks for the heads up, Widdershins.


  2. jannatwrites says:

    I couldn’t agree more with your POV on qualifiers. I’m sorry is I’m sorry. Period. (I also hate this one: “I’m sorry you were upset by—” I don’t need someone to apologize for my reaction.)


  3. catdownunder says:

    But….but…but… you are a wise human


  4. londonmabel says:

    I am all Le Caught Up with your blog! Only Julie’s left to go.

    Have you ever written in coffee shops? I’ve never tried. Writing outside the house entails this whole thing where, if you want to go to the bathroom, you have to pack up your computer and purse and bring it with you. Well I would. Which is too much work. Maybe if I used my ipad instead…

    I just feel like I’m missing out on the whole writing-in-coffee-houses experience. I’m determined to try it one day soon.


    • Widdershins says:

      You have to pick your cafe and timing is everything. You’d probably have to visit a few, at different times of the day, watch them from across the street, preferably dressed in trench-coat and fedora!


  5. jamieayres says:

    Very good advice . . . I’ve never gone to bed mad at my husband. I’ve tried, lol, but I can’t sleep! I’m sure it’s helped us during our 15 yrs of marriage:-)


  6. KC says:

    Totally agree with the “if I’ve offended”. Let’s see your actions and your need to apologize for them have been screamed out across the world, probably in several languages and you’re wondering “if” you’ve offended anyone? I just want one person to say, “yes, I did it, I was wrong.”


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