Why a solicited apology is still better than no apology

What’s the point of a solicited apology? It’s not forthcoming, it’s not sincere, the apologiser probably doesn’t think his/her “sorry” was warranted/deserved but just said it anyway to get it over with.

But you can think of it as coming from a purpose of relationship-preservation. Simply saying an apology when asked indicates that the person is willing, even for a tiny moment, to put the relationship and the other person above self, to discard their personal sense of justice and judgement of another person’s deserts, to go against ingrained intellectual instincts or principles, and deliver something that they have been expressly told could make things alright again between two people. This act goes towards, however minutely, forming an acknowledgement – albeit a contrived one – that their sense of justice could be biased or inadequate.

And to be fair and honest it very likely would be. A relationship is not one person. It’s two people with different senses of justice and judgements and emotional and intellectual sensibilities coming together to form a new, bigger system that takes more things into consideration. One person’s sense of justice could not possibly be exhaustive in considering that which relates to two people, and there are bound to be blind spots that don’t receive recognition or even the right to exist.

In a developed relationship, eventually both people will have started to adopt the other person’s understanding, or at least to acknowledge that it is there and it is just as valid even if it’s not natively within your own system. That’s what a working relationship should be like:

  • understanding that the other person has their own sense of justice foreign to you,
  • understanding that sometimes something you don’t regard as anything can be considered a breach in that foreign system that you are blind to,
  • and realising that that breach shouldn’t be any less valid to them – and you – just for being foreign and inconceivable to you,
  • and finally adopting the foreign system as part of your new co-habited system,
  • which means acknowledging when a breach has occurred regardless in native or foreign sector, and issuing recovery procedures proactively – because that breach is now in your system and under your joint purview.

In exchange, you receive the same sensitivity and understanding and acceptance of your own system by the other person.