1. Instead of taking a clear-eyed view of your recent behavior, base your apology on how angry someone else is. The more upset they are, the more wrong you were. Conversely, if the person you’re trying to apologize to insists that it’s “not a big deal” or it “happens all the time,” you can’t have done something wrong. Remember, the goal of apologizing is to keep someone from being angry, because you’re responsible for how other people feel about you. Take your cue from their emotional state and act accordingly.
2. Remember that you are a different person now, and this new person that you are cannot reasonably be expected to take responsibility for the old, bad version of yourself that you used to be. Remind other people, too, so they don’t waste any time being mad at a version of you that no longer exists.
3. Consider adopting new spiritual beliefs, which may or may not include an exculpating God that cleans up your messes for you.
4. Make a cursory moral self-examination excusing yourself from all responsibility and justifying everything that you did. If this does not work for you, try an exhaustive moral self-examination in which it turns out that not only is everything is your fault, but that you are also responsible for the feelings of everyone around you, and if they experience disappointment or frustration or resentment, it is because of some inner flaw of yours, and it’s up to you to make them feel better.
5. Forgiveness is something that other people owe you after you’ve hurt them, and it’s your right to extract it whenever you’re ready to have it. That forgiveness is yours, and you deserve it. If anyone tries to withhold it from you, you go in there and retrieve it through any means necessary.
6. When you’re ready to move on, so should everyone else. Anyone who continues to suffer or experience anger after you’ve decided this falls into the category of “the past” is choosing to be unhappy when they don’t have to be. How sad for them. Tell them how sad that is for them, and encourage them to join you in the future, where it’s not a problem anymore.
7. Explain to your friends that “not doing it again” is the same thing as “making amends for the last time I did it,” and that you should be credited for no longer doing the thing rather than forced to apologize, especially for something that you don’t even do anymore!
8. Related: If you do a lot of good, nice things for other people now, that cancels out whatever you might have done to someone else in the past. Does the person who’s still mad at you know about all the good, nice, new things you do now? Maybe if you explained them to her, she wouldn’t be so angry. You can’t help it if she’s angry. You’re not angry. You’re at peace with what
you did happened. It’s so sad that she can’t find peace, the way you have. Maybe there’s something wrong with her.
9. If none of this works, consider taking a different approach, and make it your job to maintain and improve the emotional well-being of everyone you have ever known. Someone else’s anger, no matter what it’s being directed at, can be fixed, if you can only find out how to apologize for it.
10. Related: Anger must always be fixed right away. Anger is never acceptable. If someone is feeling angry, that’s a problem. More specifically, it’s your problem. Find a way to make their anger your fault. That way you can fix it more quickly.
11. There is no difference between “someone you have harmed with your words and/or actions” and “someone who just doesn’t like you.” Both of these have to fixed. Apologies are about making sure everyone likes you. Make them accordingly.
12. Everyone has to like you. Everyone has to like you. Everyone has to like you.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.