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Apologize Not Explain-ogize and TABLE FOR TWO by Amor Towles

Cover of the book Table for Two used as a teaching tool for the mental health concept of apologizing.

**Note - Table for Two is a collection of short stories. The story used in this post is "The Bootlegger"

Tommy was at Carnegie Hall, listening to renowned musicians in hallowed ground. It should have been perfect. But Tommy was fidgety. He hadn’t enjoyed the concert since noticing that the older gentleman sitting next to him was recording, violating the rules of Carnegie Hall and civilized society. Tommy turned the man in, only to learn that the recording was for an ailing wife. The man was banned from Carnegie Hall, and Tommy was awash in guilt.


This is an abridged version of Tommy and his wife's conversation after the incident.


“I want to apologize to him,” Tommy said. “I want to explain how disruptive a recording device can be for the experience of-“


“So, wait a second,” his wife responds. “Are you going to apologize or explain?”


“Both,” Tommy says


“Sweetie, if you want to wait here so you can explain-ogize that’s fine, but I’m going home.”


Explain-ogize. What a word.


We all make mistakes. Everyone has said or done something unkind and regretted it later. When one person has harmed another through words or behaviors, apologizing helps repair the relationship and mend any lingering hurt.  The goal of an apology is to validate the other person’s feelings and acknowledge your responsibility.


Apologizing sometimes means prioritizing relationships or how we want to behave as humans over quibbles. Justifying your behaviors and making excuses detracts from apologies and further harms relationships.  


Here are tips to effectively apologize not explain-ogize:  


Sit in the Spotlight: Focus on what you did, not how the other person behaved or reacted.


Own Your Actions: Say what you did without adding excuses or justifications.


Be Specific: Avoid using language that is vague, evasive, passive, blaming, or minimizing.


Express Regret: Note the impact your actions had on the other person and verbalize your remorse.


Give it Time: Apologies are not always accepted immediately (or at all). Space and time help people heal.


Live Your Words: Apologies are meaningless if hurtful behavior continues.


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