I had somebody march into one of my Facebook comment threads and be a dick the other day.
Specifically, that person played the tired “if you don’t like it here then leave” card.
There are a whole host of reasons why that, on any logical level, is a really bad argument.
However, there is one overriding problem with it.
Anybody deploying it is being a dick, and therefore is likely to piss me off.
Now, as a general rule, it takes quite a lot to piss me off. However, the combination of lousy argument skills, plus being a dick online, is one way to do it.
The question is: if somebody pisses me off, and they want to repair the damage, what do they do?
The answer is two-fold:
1. Write an unconditional apology in the same forum that the original, dickish comment or posting was made (if you made the dickish comment in public, you owe the apology in public. Don’t be a weasel)
2. Don’t be a dick again. (an apology for bad behavior has limited value if the person making the apology then continues with the bad behavior. It’s a credibility issue).
Some people seem to have a real problem with the concept of an unconditional apology. It’s a statement of the form “I am sorry that I said/did X”. End of statement. No Ifs Ands or Buts.
Thus, the following variants don’t make it:
1. an attempted apology along the lines of “I’m sorry but…”. The “but…” is usually some elaborate post hoc justification for the original dickish statement that, when the recipient parses it, adds up to “I’m sorry but you deserved it”. That isn’t an apology. The term for it is “doubling down”.
2. the favorite construction used by politicians, “I’m sorry if you were offended”. In that latter case, the person attempting the apology is saying (in as many words) “I was right, and I don’t regret it, but that over-sensitive little snowflake over there seems to be all bent out of shape so I will throw them a rhetorical bone. There, snowflake, you’ve got your apology, now quit whining”.
Of course it would be much better if people didn’t write stuff to begin with that makes them look like a dick. Really.
There is a simple two-part rule that I invoke before I hit send on a comment or posting. The rule goes something like “am I about to send something I may regret in more than 24 hours time, and would I be prepared to say that to the person’s face, if it is a personal comment?” Sometimes I sit on contentious postings for a day or so, in order to ensure that I am not merely reacting without thinking or analyzing enough. Do I always get it right? Not always. I have had to apologize online in the past. But if you have to, you take it on the chin and move on. If the person you pissed off isn’t satisfied with an unconditional apology, there is probably something else in the relationship dynamic that is doomed in any case.