Marco | JustOnStandBi asks:

Why is apologising considered unkind without consent?

That’s really hard to explain without a lot of background.

The short answer is, I heard the practise of Radical Honesty once referred to as “life without apology” and something just went ‘click’ for me (it probably won’t go ‘click’ for you unless you understand RH pretty well). So as an experiment I refrained from apologising. I encountered many situations in which I would previously have apologised, but without being able to reach for the easy crutch of “sorry” I always found a better way. So I never went back to apologising.

As you can see from my culture statement, I don’t believe guilt is helpful, so why would I attribute it to myself?

The closest I come to apologising these days is “I made a mistake” and “I acknowledge your pain”. I don’t draw a causal connection between their pain and my mistake, just as I do not blame them when they make a mistake and I am in pain.

Many people find me almost intolerable to be with for this (never taking responsibility for how others feel) and many other attitudes. But some appreciate me for it.

Ryan Thompson (AKA Reasonable Ryan):

I’m not sure I understand what you say about not apologizing. Is it something like apologizing is taking responsibility for someone else’s feelings and/or asking them to take responsibility for yours (i.e. asking for them to forgive you so you can stop feeling guilty)?

mmmmmm I’m gonna say no. That is another whole problem. ‘Apologies’ that are really just disguised attempts to manipulate someone into making you feel better. You say “sorry” and then the other person has to say “don’t worry about it”. It’s a ritual that doesn’t really help the agrieved party. One might as well just say “I feel guilty and I want you to make me feel better about what I did to you”. That would be more honest.

A ‘good’ apology is where you need nothing at all from the other person. The apology itself is its own satisfaction. You don’t need their forgiveness, but you need to tell them you are sorry in order to forgive yourself.

But even that is using the other person to help you get over your guilt.

There is of course often a benefit for the person being apologised to, but it’s far from a sure thing. But you can ask. You can say “May I apologise to you?” - being able to apologise to someone is a privilege. The person you apologise to hearing your apology is a gift they give to you, and not something you have a right to.

But I don’t need any of that. I don’t wish guilt for myself or anyone else and so I don’t need a system to determine where blame should be assigned.
I feel like I said that last part badly haha


Yeah, that’s what I meant by “asking someone else to take responsibility for your feelings”: by saying sorry you’re implicitly asking them to make you feel better (by forgiving you)
Have I got that right?

yeah, that’s certainly a part of it.
I mean, it’s not ‘my reason’. But it’s a reason.


Oh wait, I misunderstood
your first paragraph is distinguishing between that kind of apology and another
You’re saying that even when an apology isn’t doing that, it’s still useless because it’s all about assigning blame, which is itself pointless because blame/guilt is pointless

either apologies are helpful or they aren’t. And I’ve found the occassions where they are helpful very few and far between. Usually in situations where it is simply a ritual with no meaning whatsoever, and you have to do it because that’s what’s expected, and people will freak out if you break with tradition.
yeah that last paragraph was a bit ‘tacked on’. but yes, even when an apology isn’t doing that. when it’s the best form of an apology, and it’s consented - there are just much better ways to deal with the problem of “I made a mistake and now you are in pain”
and apologies so often uh, gloss over the issue.
and there is so often an expectation on the aggrieved party, to ‘forgive’ just because someone said the magic word (“sorry”).
and then you get resentment swept under the carpet.
and then later, problems.
I think it’s really important to have forgiveness as the goal.
the desirable outcome after a mistake, is the (re)discovery of innocence in ourself and in the other.



I guess I’m not sure what “rediscovery of innocence” means, but maybe that would be an entire essay in itself. Don’t feel like you have to explain it here if that’s the case.

yeeeeaaaaahh I have a 1333 page book on this subject, and 14 volumes of analysis of THAT book.
it’s mmm
it’s something that I remember not understanding. It’s something you kinda have to experience for yourself.


I’m sure it doesn’t help that “innocence” can mean a couple of different unrelated things

I think it’s one of those things that can only be defined in terms of what it is not. And then only when you have removed all of what it is not, then you experience it.
innocence is the total removal of any feeling of guilt in any part of the mind.

it’s a pretty scary idea for some people. Fear and shame are also expressons of guilt. so try to imagine not having them either.

more apology thoughts

  • Apologies are often used to hide the fact that the apologiser has no intention of changing their behavior (not that they necessarily should change their behavior)

Apologies as Neurotypical OP codes

Mild Lee Interested:

I’d like to pipe up that an apology does have a purpose precisely because it is an expected social ritual. It’s another one of those glue things that lets us essentially selfish, status obsessed monkeys live together in large groups without biting each other too often. By not apologising, a person risks further alienating the person who is expecting an apology (as an acknowlegment of discomfort or hurt). In this situation, if the person explains why they are not apologising , this action of explaining can be perceived in a negative way when judged against “social norms”. Doing so while the other person is still upset by the action or ommission that caused them to feel pain does not seem “kind” by my understanding of the word. A person says “sorry” (meaning “I screwed up and/or I can see that you are upset”) , and then the other person says “Thats ok” (meaning “I’m still annoyed, but thankyou for acknowledging that I am hurt or uncomfortable”). LATER, the two people can choose to talk through the issue. This has been the essential process by which all my long term relationships have grown stronger over time.
My son (who is on the AS) struggled with this. “Why should I say sorry when I am correct?” or “But I am not sorry - that person is has done the wrong thing” are examples that come to mind. He now understands the “Sorry”/”Thats ok” ritual as the verbal shorthand it really is - an acknowledment of discomfort caused, and corresponding invitation for communication to continue.
To use a (strained) metaphor: “Sorry” is just an op code in the human communiction protocol. Neurotypicals generally have macros that work more or less automatically to take care of this low level stuff without even being aware of it, while those on the AS need time and energy to 1.) recognise that the word string is actually an op code and then 2.) consult internal (and sometimes external) help menus that list these op codes and their meanings. This is exhausting and frustrating and seems pointless to them - because it IS pointless to them. Unfortunately, the rest of our society expects them to do it… This is my understanding based on conversations with my son and is a gross generalisation.
Freyr and I had an interaction in the NSFW channel that I think was much better than the “sorry/thats ok” ritual. Freyr said “I think I may have just been unkind.” to which I replied “Not taken as unkind.” I felt that Freyr’s words showed concern that I may have taken some of the information provided in a negative way or percieved it as attacking. I did find the tone confronting, but I did not perceive the intent as “unkind” nor did I take exception to the content. Thus, I was able to say that I did not find the communication to be unkind.
By saying “Sorry if I upset you”, the speaker makes the problem belong to the listener. Freyr’s “I think I may have just been unkind” does not do this to nearly the same extent. Have I got this right?

Yes. That’s a great example. That was a situation where I would previously have apologised, but not apologising is a fairly well established rule for me now. So I had to find something else to say. Calling myself out is a good way.
Even so I worried that not using the familiar op code would mean you took offense. But avoiding others being offended is not a good justification for unkindness.
In that situation I could think of no kind thing to say, so I resorted to telling the truth.

Mild Lee Interested:

I would say that avoiding others being offended is often a useful stratagy for successful communication, but of course can also be an impediment to understanding and change.
In that situation, I found the tone of your communication to be confronting - but that is not a bad thing when dealing with the social inertia of white, male, cis, hetro, neurotypical privilage (of which I am a beneficiary)
“I think I may have just been unkind.” achives the aim of acknowledging a potential mistake and thus serves to limit or “repair” any offence given, but does not ask anything of the listener.
I think I will try to deliberatly use this approach in future.

The manipulation of other’s perception of me is not something that motivates me. “I may have been unkind” was not trying to avoid offense. If you had actually been hurt then you might well have been offended and expecting more from me, which would never come.

I’ve lost friends, and in fact, entire communities this way. Anyone who needs op codes or lies from me will not survive long in my presence.
That said, the habit of doing things to be liked does creep back in if I’m not paying attention. Like it did at the meet up in a few subtle ways.

Mild Lee Interested:

I think I understand. I did not mean to say that you were deliberately seeking to avoid giving offence or “repair damage” or something similar. I meant that this stratagy could also serve as a useful tool if it is a persons intention to continuing a conversation for some reason.

Oh maybe. Try it out, see what happens.

Or make your own versions. If you undertake to refrain from saying “sorry” you might be surprised by your own ingenuity.

About intent

Mild Lee Interested:

Re: my last message, I also meant that I perceived it as a acknowledgment that you were aware of the potential of your words to cause offence but you were not apologising for saying them. This is powerful. Was that your intent, or am I still misunderstanding?

Asking about intent, trying to unterstand my attitude, my state of mind, may stretch the limits of our current communication framework.
My mind is a kaleidoscope. All purpose is simultaneous. Right action has an infinite number of ‘reasons’ to justify it.
It was just “the thing to say”. The way that I discovered it is irrelevant.
I’m generally not attached to outcomes. I’m not like “I want this person to feel this particular feeling, so I’m going to say these words to create that feeling in them”. How others feel is their business.
However, I appreciate you for sharing that it felt powerful for you. I always want to know how others feel about me and the things I say and do.

Forgive, and you will see this differently.