Against Excessive Apologising

Many peo­ple would say that if you re­al­ise that you are in the wrong, then you should always apol­o­gise. Per­haps, they’d ex­clude so­cio­pathic situ­a­tions where this would be used to ma­nipu­late you, but that’d be it.

How­ever, it’s easy to for­get that apol­o­gis­ing cre­ates a cost for the per­son who is apol­o­gised to. They have to read your mes­sage and per­haps write a re­ply. This later com­po­nent is tricky if they aren’t con­vinced that you’ve made up for it. It re­minds them of an ex­pe­rience they might want to for­get. Fur­ther, it re­quires them to deal with a topic they may be com­pletely sick and tired of.

If you apol­o­gise, it should be be­cause it helps pre­vent or mend a rift with the other per­son. You should be ex­tremely cau­tious about apol­o­gis­ing when it’s be­cause that’s what you think a nice per­son would do, as op­posed to some­thing more spe­cific, since those are pre­cisely the situ­a­tions where you are likely to end up apol­o­gis­ing with no benefit to any­one.

Now most peo­ple don’t apol­o­gise enough and so this is prob­a­bly the wrong ad­vice for them. But Less Wrong sam­ples a par­tic­u­lar seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion and I sus­pect it in­cludes a dis­pro­por­tionate num­ber of those peo­ple who over-apol­o­gise.