Thursday, May 27, 2010


The most difficult and the most rewarding thing in an argument between friends can be a sincere apology. Unfortunately, there is a fundamental difference in how men and women use and respond to the language of apology.

Typically men view an apology as an admission of fault or guilt where women use it as a way to reconnect after a disagreement. This essay is dedicated to helping men understand what an apology is to a woman and how to construct an appropriate one.

Guys, you can't tell a woman what to feel. Her emotions are real or you wouldn't be trying to change them. They're important or it wouldn't matter if she is upset or happy. Save yourself from making her angrier when you try to convince her that her emotions are unmerited or irrational. This is what we call "adding insult to injury". I'm pretty sure it would confuse and upset you if someone said that your ears (which for the record are also real and important) were clouding your judgment and that you should ignore them. Emotions can be a helpful guide in decision making, not unlike your ears.

Now on to crafting that apology. A successful apology has 3 major parts and I'll address each separately.

1. Admit your transgression. There's nothing wrong with a good old, "I was wrong." This owns the act. Saying, "I'm sorry we disagree" or "I'm sorry you think I was wrong" is insulting. You're not taking responsibility for your actions and you're denigrating her stance on the issue. You care about this lady or you wouldn't be trying to fix things. Subsequently, her point of view should matter to you and you'll win points by making that clear to her.

2. Acknowledge her feelings. Now that you've addressed the act, you need to take responsibility for the consequences. "I hurt your feelings," should be your basic model. This shows that you understand her emotional state as a logical consequence of your actions. Saying "you're feeling hurt," is a big no-no. You're disconnecting your actions from her emotions. You need to connect the two so that you can reconnect as friends.

3. Express regret. You've owned your actions and the consequences and now you've got to be sure she understands why you're apologizing. Presumably you're apologizing because you care about her. This is the part we typically associate with an apology and it goes like this, "I'm sorry."

So let's string that all together. "I was wrong, I hurt your feelings, and I'm sorry." This is really a basic model and I encourage you to explore possible permutations for a more sincere and relevant apology. For example, "I'm sorry I ran over your cat with my car. I know you loved that cat and I'm sorry I killed your beloved pet. I know I made it worse when I tried to blame the cat for sleeping under the car. That was wrong. I could have checked. I knew the cat liked to sleep there."

There's another part to reconnecting with your lady-friend that isn't totally necessary but will help her feel understood and help the two of you to get back on the same page by inviting her to participate in your future together. This has two parts, are you ready?

A. Offer a solution. This can be as simple as saying, "I will never do that again." but this isn't always realistic. If you're a repeat offender you lose credibility and insult her intelligence for a reasonable expectation of future behavior based on past experience. You might gain points in saying, "This is a personal flaw and I'm working on it." For example, "I'm sorry I keep throwing my clothes on the floor. I know it irritates you and I'm trying to be neater." It should go without saying but you do have to make good on any agreement you reach. For example, "I won't get upset if you leave my dirty clothes on the floor instead of washing them." An alternative is to ask her if there's anything you can do to make it up to her. This is a great way to bring her back into the situation and empower her to contribute to the relationship. Obviously you have to make good on any commitment you make in a timely manner or we're back to step one.

B. Ask her to forgive you. This might seem like a no-brainer but it's often left out of making amends after disagreement. Absolution isn't unilateral and requires a meeting of the minds. This is the part that drives home the idea that her happiness is important to you and that you want to be in her good graces. The basic model is "please forgive me." Depending on the severity you might add, "I understand if you can't forgive me," to avoid seeming presumptuous.

A crucial part of these steps to working things out with a girl is sincerity. If you don't really mean it or you don't know why she's upset you've got two problems: a pissed lady-friend and an incomplete understanding of the situation. Take some time to put yourself in her shoes. You won't lose face by asking to explain her perspective. This indicates you want to understand her and will help convince her of your sincerity.

Guys, I know there are a dearth of blogs and articles just like this one on the internet and I have to commend you just for taking the time to look. Whether it's your daughter, wife, sister, girlfriend, mom, boss, or a friend; your relationship with these women will benefit from understanding what an apology means to her and that she will respect you for owning your actions and taking responsibility for the consequences.

Happy relationship advice day and good luck!


  1. Glossing over irrational emotional reactions leads to distorted / illogical thinking and behavior. If her reaction is beyond reasonable, don't pretend that it isn't. Feelings and emotions are not magical and unaccountable happenings. They happen because of the way we think and process information. I'll apologize for my actions, but won't be guilted in to a silence that condones an illogical, batshit crazy response.

  2. If a woman's reaction seems inappropriate in a particular context or in its magnitude, that doesn't bar there being a reason. For example, if a girl punches you in the face for wolf-whistling at her, it might make more sense knowing that a relative who molested her as a child would whistle at her when she walked into a room. Hence the part about necessitating an understanding of her perspective.

  3. Bravo, Ms. Watts, but not everyone is that self aware to know why they have an inappropriate response to a specific behavior.

  4. dear anonymous lazy piglet, its easier to call a girl crazy than to try and understand her