Pig-wrestling_0001-797004 True story.

A friend teaches pre-school.

Recently one of her charges refused to share a toy with another child.

To remind her to share, the teacher spoke gently, firmly and privately to the unsharing little girl: "You remember the beginning of the year? We all agreed that we would do something. Do you remember what it is? We even signed a contract about it. It start with 's' — ssh, ssh…"

The little girl burst into tears and said: "Shorry!"

Uh, you're close. And, perhaps, you're even better than right.

Apologies are best when offered unconditionally.
You can tell when you're hearing a false apology. Politicians have diluted the form.

False apologies are conditional. The condition is your stupidity. It sounds like:

I'm sorry that your stupidity led me to make an innocent mistake.

Of course, here's a real apology:

I'm sorry for my mistake. If only I'd known more, I wouldn't have done what I did. I won't do it again.

It's hard to offer an unconditional apology, because our mistakes are usually innocent, without evil intention. But, as mistakes, they end up being perceived as wicked.

Still, we have a choice. We can apologize. Or we can debate where the blame is to be placed and who had what intentions.

I always prefer the first choice. Sometimes, however, I wallow in the second choice — feeling hurt myself — until I snap out of it. And then I apologize.

Sometimes, I get all the way to and through the apology. Sometimes, I fail and just walk away.

When we apologize, fully and sincerely, that's class.

What If Your Apology Is Not Accepted?
Often the other person is wallowing in blame-assignment and intention-assessment.

He's not yet interested in resolution. He wants to debate.

Sometimes, he'll debate with harsh words, written IN CAPITAL LETTERS for your ease.

"YOU ARE AN IDIOT," he writes, identifying the problem.

Next: assessment of of intentions. (This doesn't go well for you either.)

An ancient tradition: if you refuse my apology, I'm to come back and apologize again. If you refuse me again, I'm to return yet again. That's three sincere apologies. If it gets to the third apology, I hope you accept it. Perhaps I've reached true sincerity and expressiveness.

However, according to tradition, if you reject all three of my sincere apologies, you know what? It's no longer my problem. I'm done. Now it's your problem.

To engage in the debate is futile. An old friend taught me: "Don't wrestle with with pigs. Everyone gets muddy. And the pig likes it."

True Apologies Have Three Aspects

1. Your apology is sincere (without conditions).
2. You stop doing whatever you are apologizing for. The tradition suggests that the apology is not genuine until, when faced with the same opportunity, you don't repeat your misdeed. (For example, Mr. Madoff would have to have another opportunity to steal your money — an unlikely situation to be repeated — and he would have to act differently.)
3. You repair the damages. (To be sure, sometimes, the injury is beyond repair.)

Anything less is lip service.