26 Nov 2015

When You Should Apologize... Or You Shouldn't

“Vishal, you didn’t apologize to me.”

“For what?”

“For having spoken rudely to me two days ago.”


“When you got angry and insulted me when I said that you shouldn’t ride bikes because they’re not safe.”

“Well, I love riding. And you persisted despite me explaining how integral a part of my life it is.”

“That doesn’t allow you to be rude.” Her voice grew louder.t

“I wasn’t rude. I just told you that I wouldn’t stop riding and that you should back off.”

“So you won’t apologize?”


“THEN YOU DON’T DESERVE ME!” she cried. 


This occurred in a mall. She violently pushed away her chair and walked away in a huff. I finished my burger, got up and walked quietly, mentally fist-bumping every man who gave me a look of admiration (feminists, please keep your judgement to yourselves).

Unfortunately she did not break up with me. But she refused to speak to me for three (peaceful) days. It’s the small moments of joy and happiness that we should appreciate.

Standing up for what you believe in was always considered a taboo. Mankind has evolved in leaps and bounds in technology or quality of life. But our limbic brain - our lizard brain - stays as apish as it was about 15 million years ago. If someone is offended by what we did or said, the status quo demands that we apologize. Why? Because the person was hurt. It doesn’t matter that the our sentiments were hurt before by him. This logic is messed up. But then, society is messed up anyway.

Apologies exact a toll on the offender, as this article states. When you apologize to someone, you hand the power over to them - the power to extend forgiveness and appear like ‘the bigger person’, or to deny the apology and make you feel like crap.

This does not mean that we should not apologize when we do something wrong (Aamir Khan, are you listening?). But apologies should not be trivial, or rendered often or lightly. Especially not when you meant what you said. Because when you apologize for something you meant, you silently tell the ‘victim’, 

“Your approval of me is more important than my personal feelings.”

And that sucks.

You know this, right? Haven’t you found yourself in a situation where you thought, “I shouldn’t have to apologize.” Yet, may of us do it. Why? Because of social pressure, which induces a feeling of guilt. And trust me, as much as that feeling is real, it is irrelevant.

Here is what you should do to get rid of the feeling of guilt:

  1. Be comfortable in your skin
    The main reason for this feeling of guilt stems from being unsure about ourselves. Fear and anxiety often dominate our thoughts during such periods. But we have to free ourselves from these insecurities, and take back the power of being secure in who we are - with our flaws and strengths. Read this article to know how to overcome self doubt and get comfortable with yourself (h/t to Kamini for sharing it).

  2. Choose your battles

    “Life is too short to spend it on warring. Fight only the most important ones and let go of the rest.” - C. Joybell C.

    Not all battles are worth fighting. in fact, most are not. And guess what. Fighting too many battles leaves your tank empty when you need the energy to stand up for yourself the most. Choose a battle which has serious, long-term implications. Let go if the consequences are little.

    You will encounter trolls and dismissive people. But remember: their picking on you does not reflect on your inadequacies, but on their own. Carry on with your work. But when they make a habit of it, you must throw back one punch. One punch which makes the world stand up and say to them - “Oh! You got ‘owned’!” And then, don't apologize for throwing the it.

  3. Don’t be a d**k

    Shane Watson was batting with a cramp. Shikhar Dhawan was taunting him on the field, acting like he had a limp. Dhoni intervened. He was having none of this. He openly indicated to Dhawan, “Don’t be a d**k.”

    How many times have the Aussies sledged their opponents? Those instances are more than the number of stars in the sky. But does Dhoni use a thorn to draw a thorn? In fact, during his press conferences, Dhoni comes out with responses which put the media and opponents in their places without being apologetic. And it makes us go, “Oh! He ‘owned’ them!”

    Mount personal attacks on someone who pisses you off and you become easy pickings for your instigator. He can show the world that you called him a/n [insert expletive here] and gain sympathy. All this while he was the person who started it.

    Stay calm and go about your work. But when you must, respond to the situation, not the person. This emotional balance will help you keep critics at bay, maintain inner peace and command respect from those around you.

  4. What matters more?

    Does the person matter more, or what he said? If it’s the former, is he having a bad day? Is it a one-off instance or frequent?

    If it is one-off, can you find the reason behind it, or ignore it? And if it is frequent, do you want to stay connected with someone who behaves like a jerk all the time? I don’t need to elaborate, do I? You are smart enough to get the drift.

If you stand up for yourself, there will be consequences. People will call you arrogant, selfish, a jerk, rude, and many other adjectives. They will hate you. But this isn’t hatred. In reality, it’s jealousy - of your guts to speak your mind and stand up for what you believe in. After all, people often hate those whom they want to be like.

Nobody owes you anything, and you owe nothing to anyone. If someone tells you what to do and you don’t want to, follow Robert Downey Jr.’s advice.

Stop apologizing for what you think is right. Live your life with no regrets, like your mom will be proud to read about it if it appears on the right hand side of the front page of a newspaper. For all you know, some day it will.


  1. Nice article Vishal! Stay honest to yourself, say what you mean and maintain the emotional balance.

    1. Thank you Kamini. Staying honest to ourselves and maintaining the emotional balance will let us do what we want without hurting others.

      Lovely points :)

  2. I didn't really understand the exact point you were trying to make. Perhaps I am very tired after a long day. But one thing I agree, One Ideally shouldn't need to apologize if one does not feel that one is in the wrong. But, I have done it because the other person was dear to me. So, I guess that's life.

    1. Yes, Rachna. That's the crux of this post. And it's okay apologize sometimes when we are not wrong because the relation matters. We all do it. It shouldn't become a habit though :)

  3. Live as you are, speak what you mean....wonderful if we could pull these off! My life, my way, no apologies....right? A lucky few of us can have that choice. Mostly though trying to live by this motto, we end being termed obnoxious and non-conformists! You are truly great if you can get past these pull-downs and live life on your own terms. Thought-provoking one here! Great!

    1. More than being great, Kala, one ends up being happy. And it is not difficult to achieve. We simply need to be aware of ourselves and make conscious efforts to surround ourselves with people who support us. As for being termed a non-conformist by most, well... I think it's worth it.

      Thanks for the encouragement :)

  4. I agree with you on the need to take a strong stand without apologizing when it comes to standing by our beliefs. However, being courteous doesn't hurt and helps keep the people who matter see our point of view more easily that having a tussle.

    I liked the examples you shared. It is quite funny how we are taught to start with apology when trying to put forward our beliefs. Like, " I am sorry to say..." " I am sorry but you are......" etc.

    1. True ME. That's why we should choose our battles. And as you rightly pointed out, being courteous doesn't have to mean offering an apology. A simple "you may be right" can help :)

  5. Interesting perspectives Vishal. Rendering an apology or not is a choice we often make spontaneously depending on our own thoughts, the situation and the people involved. I feel that staying true to oneself matters, no matter what the challenges of any particular situation is. Whatever we choose to do, it should be based on the beliefs coming from our own conscience which is independent of the belief-system conditioned by the society. There is great freedom in that.

    1. So true, Arti. We need to base our actions on our conscience. And that conscience must be based on respecting others' sentiments. And yes, that freedom is unmatched.

  6. Hahaha, all throughout I was searching for that Achaar ka Dabba :p
    Jokes apart, love your thought flow n the way you express it all. Marvelous, a treat like always. Rev on bro. Waise, apni ek ride pending hai. Saal khatam hone ke pehle.
    Cheers :)

    1. Haha. I'm sorry bro :P

      We will ride for sure. Thanks for the encouragement :)

  7. I like your unapologetic take on apologies! Being Canadian, I have the cultural habit of apologizing for everything. :)

    I understand what you are saying here though and don't believe either in apologizing for things I believe are right or decisions that are right for me or my family but that others don't understand.

    Sometimes if confronted by someone who says I hurt them but in my heart I know I was simply standing up for something I believe to be right, I do say that I am sorry they are hurt. And I mean it but it doesn't make me change my stance.

    Thought provoking post!

    1. You are right Colleen. "I am sorry that you are hurt" is an empathic way of handling things without changing our stance.

      We Indians are apologetic about most things that we shouldn't apologize for, and unapologetic about the ones that we should apologize for :)

      Thank you for your insightful comment.

  8. Agreed Vishal! You have to choose your battles wisely, somethings are not worth arguing over and better off letting go.

    Style.. A Pastiche! - www.styleapastiche.com - New Post - Asus Zenfone 2

  9. Unnecessarily apologizing reduces its value at the same time I agree with the second point - choose your battle. Some situations are saved with an apology .
    You write so well Vishal and that too on such sensitive issues. This was a good thought provoking read for me. :)

    1. Welcome to my blog Indrani. And thank you for the compliment :)

      Hope there are more takeaways for you as well...


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