This page is an essay on civility.
|This page in a nutshell: We all make mistakes. Don't be afraid to apologize, and remember to apologize with sincerity.|
When editors fall out with each other, an apology can often help ease tensions and restore calm and good faith. Even if you do not feel that you have been rude, you may have given a false impression or been misunderstood in some way, and an apology can help to clear the air.
It is easier to demand an apology than to deliver one. We all make mistakes. So take care which apologies you demand, and how often, and what you reject as not good enough. Your turn will come.
Courtesy isn't a standard to expect of others; it's a standard you abide by yourself.
Sometimes it is better to wait for an apology, instead of demanding one. Equally, if you are in the wrong it is better to offer an apology before one is demanded.
At its best, an apology is an expression of sincere personal regret for one's own actions, rather than a form of inflammatory rhetoric or empty emotional coercion. A "non-apology" on the other hand is seen as a way of qualifying, or even avoiding, a "real" apology in this sense of the word and may even be used as the opportunity for yet another veiled insult.
The classic "non-apology" is something like "I'm sorry you're upset, but if you're too stupid to understand, there's not much I can do!" – or a form of words that gives this kind of impression. "I'm sorry that you were upset" – or, worse, "I'm sorry that you took offense at my remarks" can have this effect, and can compound the problem further, or cause further offense. In effect one is expressing regret for the actions of the person we are "apologising" to – effectively turning the apology on its head!
On the other hand, a sincere expression of regret, even if it stops short of a (probably insincere) admission that one has been totally to blame, can help defuse a situation, and may stand in place of an "ideal" apology. It may even be preferred if a full, unreserved apology would be obviously insincere or hypocritical, and might even give further offense by giving the impression of sarcasm. Although they may fall into a non-apology grey area, "I'm sorry that I upset you", or better, "I'm sorry that my remarks upset you" at least place a measure of the blame onto the person apologising.
Although it may at times be difficult – in accepting an apology one should "assume good faith" where it is at all possible.