What Stace had to say on Friday, September 10th, 2010
Everybody’s Gotta Right to be Right

Oh, before I start, there’s a new interview with me up at Paperback Dolls, done on the Saturday night during Dragoncon. It’s pretty decent, I think, though I could have sworn it went on longer than that. Maybe it was just because the interviewer was really fun to talk to. It was my first ever face-to-face, talk-into-a-recorder interview, too!

So I do wish I’d been more comfortable/experienced with that. And, you know, that I didn’t sound so silly and like I wasn’t actually answering the questions posed. Sigh. But still, it’s fun, and Caitlin came to hang out with us partway through so she’s in there too, which is of course awesome except all of our little asides and stuff aren’t in there, heh. Anyway. Go read it if you like.

I’ve also done another interview, with Julie at Yummy Man and Kick Ass Chicks, which was, again, lots of fun. That’s going to be posted at some point tomorrow, Saturday the 11th. (Which, has everyone forgotten what that day is? I don’t think we should have a national day of mourning forever, but I do think it’s sad and upsetting that I’m not even seeing mention of it anywhere.)

Anyway. A few months ago I had a discussion with a few friends about this subject, and now it’s come up again. Will someone please tell me when everyone decided that they had to be right all the time, that they never had to take blame for or accept responsibility for their mistakes or the effects their words and/or actions have on others, and that apologizing in any way is a terrible, weak, dumb thing to do?

As I think I’ve said before, we all–every single one of us–has at one time or another hurt another person. We said something we didn’t mean. Or we meant it when we said it but regretted saying it after. Or it was a flip, throw-away comment, made as a joke, that inadvertently really hurt or upset someone else. Or made them angry. Or whatever. Maybe we were having an off day. Maybe they were simply someone who doesn’t and never will understand us, and so the ability to connect and follow meanings just isn’t there.

We’ve all done it. All of us. We’re human, and that’s what humans do. Show me a person who has never in their lives hurt another person and I’ll show you a person who’s spent their entire lives in one room, or who has simply never spoken to anyone, although even then, what if someone tried to speak to them, and they didn’t reply? Wouldn’t that be hurtful? I think so.

But when did it become such a horrible, evil thing to do to just say you’re sorry? When did we decide we would rather argue and argue and argue, instead of just saying, “I’m sorry,” and letting the matter drop?

My friends and I were discussing a few of the biggest internet kerfuffles of the last year/year and a half or so, and how big they got, and how painful they were for so many people, and how in pretty much every case, the whole thing could have been avoided had one person, early on, just said, “You know, I’m not sure I understand why you’re upset, but it’s enough for me to know you are upset, so I really want to apologize because I certainly didn’t want to hurt you or make you angry.”

Apologizing is not giving in. Apologizing is not admitting you’re wrong. You don’t have to believe you’re wrong to apologize. It’s simply the right thing to do. The polite, civilized thing to do. And in a society which is supposed to be polite and civilized, I notice a disturbing number of people lately who don’t care who they hurt, who don’t care how many people they drag through the mud or rip apart, who don’t care how much filth spills over onto other people who had the misfortune of being in the same area. It’s all worth it if they get to prove they’re right. They are unequivocally, absolutely, totally right, and all the people who don’t see that are obviously morons with no soul, and if Person A just explains him- or herself enough times, or offers enough justifications, then Person B will of course realize how wrong they’ve been, bow meekly, and walk away, leaving Person A victorious.

Except life doesn’t work that way, and people don’t work that way, and all that will happen is everyone will get angrier and angrier and angrier, and friendships and reputations will be ruined and psyches scarred, just because everyone had to be right.

Why is it so damn hard to just say, “I’m sorry?” To just be graceful, and admit that although you meant no offense, obviously whatever you said or did had an unintended consequence? Why are people so reluctant to do that, why are they so determined to sacrifice the feelings of anyone and everyone else just so they can be right? Why are they so determined to convince themselves and the other people involved that they were wrong to be offended, or to take the comment that way? That it’s all their fault for being oversensitive, or babyish, or for expecting special treatment? People will rely on the worst self-serving pop-psychology bullshit to justify their own nastiness and insensitivity, because apparently just acknowledging and respecting the feelings of another human being is just way beyond their skill level, or what they’re prepared to do.

I don’t get it. It pisses me off. Grow up, you fucking morons. Just apologize, the way an adult does. Only a child needs to insist on being right all the time, and in resorting to this “blame the victim for their obviously skewed worldview” crap so they can avoid taking responsibility for their own actions. And you know, if you’re like that, and you seriously need so bad to be right all the time and to believe that you personally exist in this ethereal bubble of spiritual, social, and mental perfection that no mere mortal can possibly understand, then go fuck yourself, because you’re an asshole.

Yes, there are some people who deliberately set out to hurt or offend others. But most people don’t. I get that. Most of us get that. And like I said above, we’ve all done it. I can totally understand the “I really don’t understand what I did to upset you,” feeling. I’ve been there. I can totally understand the “That’s really not what I meant, and I find it pretty impossible to even understand how you misunderstood me so thoroughly, or why you assumed the worst like that.” I’ve been there too. I understand how it hurts to be misunderstood like that, because again, been there. I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of hurt feelings and offense. And it’s not pleasant. It’s not fun. Nobody likes to be hurt, and honestly, no decent person likes to think they’ve hurt someone else.

But sometimes we just have to suck it up, you know? If I make a joke about trees, and someone’s cousin married a tree and they then take offense, I need to apologize. By doing so I’m not admitting what I said was wrong. I’m not admitting defeat. I’m not admitting that I am an anti-tree hatist of the most evil proportion. I’m just saying that I didn’t mean to hurt or offend them. How is that wrong? How is that a lie? How is that insincere? Why is that so hard for people?

And even if I think both the person and their cousin are completely nut-rot crazy, I apologize. Yes, because again, I hurt or offended them, and that’s not a good thing to do. But also because perhaps someone offended by something like that is a bit unstable or is simply having a really bad, painful day, and by apologizing I can make them feel better. Maybe someone offended by that is the type who’ll stick around arguing for hours and hours, who’ll start spamming the blog or sending crazy emails, and I can head all of that trouble off at the pass just by saying I’m sorry. (That’s another thing too, about the Need To Be Right: why do you spend so much time and energy arguing with someone online? Why not just shrug and walk away? Stop replying to comments about it, stop engaging in discussions about it. It’s very simple. Let it go.)

By arguing and arguing, and needing so badly to be right, I prove not only what an insecure, needy little twat I am, but that I truly have no manners, that I truly am a selfish boor. Who wants to hang out with that kind of person?

There comes a point in every argument where the best thing to do is simply to give up. I believe that when you’re hurt someone, it’s your duty to apologize right away. But if that’s not what the argument is about, or if it’s past that point or whatever, there is still a sense of class and grace in being the one to walk away. It doesn’t make you look weak; just the opposite, in fact. Being willing to apologize, being willing to say that although you can’t agree, you don’t want to argue anymore, makes you look braver, stronger. It makes you the bigger person. I admire someone who can gracefully apologize and walk away. I do not admire someone who will resort to anything, any argument no matter how low, any justification no matter how crappy, any defense no matter how far-fetched and desperate, to prove themselves right. And especially, to lay the blame on the other person.

You know what? An argument–whether in real life or, especially, online–isn’t a fucking trial to save you from a murder rap. You’re not trying to escape a death sentence. It’s just not that damned important; it shouldn’t be, certainly. It shouldn’t be so important that your entire self-worth and self-image hinge on you being deemed THE VICTOR in this particular throwdown. It’s just a disagreement. You apologize and move on. And you know, if you’re so offended by the other person taking offense, maybe all of the bullshit you’re trying to ascribe to them apply to you as well, hmm?

It’s never pleasant to be told something you said or did was taken badly and upset someone. Nobody likes to feel like the villain. And certainly, when there are issues like racism or sexism involved, that can be really upsetting. But the way to prove that you’re not isn’t by arguing and yelling and claiming anyone who saw that in your statement is obviously a moron and way oversensitive. The way to prove you’re not is just to apologize. “Oh, man, it didn’t even occur to me that someone would read my comment that way. I’m so, so sorry it made you feel like that!”

It’s very easy. It’s part of being a member of society, whether that’s an online one or a Real Life one. And it’s part of being a decent person, frankly.

You don’t need to be right. You do need to behave like a human being. Just fucking apologize. Or soon you’ll have no one to apologize to, because no one will be speaking to you–except, perhaps, a couple of other sycophantic tools, but how long do you think that will last, when you’re all so rude, unpleasant, and convinced of your own superiority?

You hurt someone, you own your words. Whatever. Just do it. Grow the hell up.

16 comments to “Everybody’s Gotta Right to be Right”

  1. Jackie U
    · September 10th, 2010 at 11:38 pm · Link

    You are so right, and while I’m not one of those people (hopefully, lol) that refuses to apologize, I do find myself arguing and arguing and arguing well after my point is made. It’s horrible. I see myself doing it and I try to stop, but my mouth (or fingers, when online) keep going and going and going like a demented energizer bunny hell bent on making me look loony. I do that well enough WITHOUT the bit of crazy peeking through. : ) I like to think I’m getting better, but man, it’s hard.

  2. Synde
    · September 11th, 2010 at 12:40 am · Link

    As someone who can get hurt easily and often is misrepresented , I find myself saying sorry a lot. It’s not that hard or soul killing or anything . People need to do it more.
    As stated, own your words . Few do it, and many who think they do don’t.
    It’s just like manners, gone… Sad!

  3. Allie
    · September 11th, 2010 at 6:48 am · Link

    Well said.

    I’d like to think I always apologise for any unintentional upset I cause, because I hate the thought of upsetting anyone.

    That being said, I have found myself arguing for hours with a particular person who would deliberately misconstrue everything I post. What a waste of time and energy. You’re right, you can apologise without conceeding the point. Apologise for any upset caused, agree to disagree and move on.

  4. Shiloh
    · September 11th, 2010 at 7:14 am · Link

    Damn straight-geez, an apology is a sign of maturity. Wish more adults could see that.

  5. Missy Ann
    · September 11th, 2010 at 7:51 am · Link

    I don’t have a problem apologizing. I do have a problem apologizing when I’m not the one in the wrong. I do understand your point that it could’ve headed off a lot of battles & nastiness on the ‘net. You’re right, a simple I’m sorry – I didn’t say or do that to hurt you.

    But in an online group I’m part of, we’ve got an attention whore. No matter what YOU do or say, it’s about her. Seriously. I posted something that she decided was about her and threw a fit. So I did the only other adult thing I could, I walked away. I no longer acknowledge anything she posts.

    So yes, you are right be an adult and apologize. But also be a sane adult and realize when you’re dealing with a psycho and know when to disengage. No apology in the world will be enough for some people.

  6. Donna
    · September 11th, 2010 at 8:14 am · Link

    One of the most disturbing things I’ve noticed recently is that, even in the event of an apology, it’s not a real apology. “I’m sorry you were offended” is not the same thing as “I’m sorry I offended you.” One is intimating someone got butthurt for no reason; the other is accepting responsibility. The fauxpologies are rampant, and are only meant to make someone look as though he or she is taking the high road when, in actuality, they’re again denying they did anything wrong.

    • Stace
      · September 11th, 2010 at 10:40 pm · Link

      Ugh, I agree. Apologies like that are arrogant bullshit, and totally unnecessary. It’s a way of saying, “I don’t actually give a shit about you, so I’ll humor you so you’ll shut up, but I don’t even have enough respect for you to feel bad about hurting you.”

      I don’t mind not being right, or just walking away, but I do mind hurting people, and I don’t understand how some people don’t care about that.

  7. David M.
    · September 11th, 2010 at 11:52 am · Link

    You’ve done a good job of explaining why it’s usually not a good idea to get involved in arguments online. The anonymity of the internet doesn’t help either.

    Strangely enough, I just finished City of Ghosts and this post describes many of the feelings I experienced while reading the book. The Downside books are emotionally confusing enough because the “normal” people tend to end up being evil and the “good guys” are the social deviants. However, when it becomes difficult to like the heroes, confusion sets in.

    More than once I said to Terrible, “go fuck yourself, because you’re an asshole.” (Although I suspect I’m the only one who doesn’t like Terrible.) Then Chess’ inability to be the “bigger person” and gracefully walk away made me lose admiration for her. Finally I got to the point where I’m sure I said, “Grow up, you fucking morons.” Maybe more than once.

    (Just to be clear, I really enjoyed the book. :) I like the series because everything seems to turned on it’s head; the people you are supposed to like are not really likable.)

    My point is that you have created characters that exhibit the behavior you bemoan. So we need look no further than Chess and Terrible to find out why people sometimes behave irrationally towards each other.

  8. Jane Smith
    · September 11th, 2010 at 12:44 pm · Link

    Stacia, I’m so disappointed! I hoped that the interview on Paperback Dolls was going to be a little YouTubey thing, where I could get to hear your voice properly. Never mind.

    And David M, for someone who claims to like the Downside Books you certainly manage to give the impression of disliking them intensely. I thought your comment was both bizarre and inappropriate. I disagree with you that the good guys are “social deviants”: I think they’re flawed but very believeable characters with a depth and vulnerability that isn’t often found in fiction, and that Stacia is an extraordinarily talented writer who has written some remarkable books.

    • David M.
      · September 11th, 2010 at 1:51 pm · Link

      Well I assure you, I have enjoyed the books. Also, I have read plenty of books where the anti-heroes make me cringe and yet I enjoy their story. Maybe that’s even part of the fun. As you point out, it takes skill on the part of the author to pull this off because I can only imagine it’s not easy to do. The fact that City of Ghosts elicited a reaction out of me at all is a testament to how good a story it was. What more does an author want than to get an emotional response (good or bad) from their readers? After all, the other option is for them not to read at all.

      Still, I don’t understand how anyone can disagree Chess and company are social deviants. They live in a society that revolves around the Church. By definition, anyone who lives outside those norms (i.e. everyone in Downside) are deviants. It’s not a slur, it’s the premise of the series.

      Anyway, as the blog post points out, it’s easy to step on toes when you talk about things people care about. At this point I will just apologize and leave it at that. :)

  9. Moonsanity (Brenda)
    · September 11th, 2010 at 9:21 pm · Link

    I think the internet is cool in so many ways, but things can get ugly very very quickly, and turn into a battle of wills. I agree with you– I really do. I’ve also seen situations where an apology is given and the other person continues the fight. Sigh. Apologies and forgiveness would go long way to solving many problems online and offline.

  10. Day
    · September 11th, 2010 at 9:41 pm · Link

    Hi Stacia!
    I couldn’t agree more with this blog post. Also, a simple “thank you” goes a long way. People forget their manners when online…well actually more and more people are lacking manners in real life too, but nonetheless I feel that saying “sorry” and “thank you” fall into the same category (things people should say more often). I also think that online anyway, people hide behind their handles and possibly act out in ways that they NEVER would in real life. It’s unfortunate.

    BTW-I apologize for the entire interview not being up on Paperback Dolls. You are right, there is more and it is fun random questions waitress taking drink orders etc… Things started getting louder as the interview went on and certain things aren’t as clear. But, I have someone working on parts of the Audio to see if we can make it more Audible (minus the uber loud Lady Gaga playlist). When it’s finished I will email it to you, because it really was a fun interview and your vocal dynamics were what made it special.

    Thanks Again-

    • Stace
      · September 11th, 2010 at 10:36 pm · Link

      Oh, geez, Day, there’s no need for you to apologize! I didn’t even actually realize the whole thing wasn’t up–I don’t know how I missed that when I read the post–and was just commenting that I thought I remembered it taking longer. Sorry, I didn’t think it might sound like a complaint, because I didn’t mean it that way at all.

      I hope you manage to get the rest, because I thought it was really fun too, but please don’t worry about it if you can’t or if it takes a while!

  11. Aniko
    · September 12th, 2010 at 7:08 am · Link

    Completely agree! Personally, I think it takes a lot more strength of character to apologise than to argue your supreme right for everyone else to have your opinion (‘your’ as in general, not ‘your’ as in specifically you, cause you obviously don’t have a problem with “sorry” when it’s warranted :)). It would be nice if people could realise that it takes very little effort to just to be considerate of other peoples’ feelings, especially online where there are no visual cues and is therefore easy to misconstrue intent.

  12. Lisa S.
    · September 12th, 2010 at 6:03 pm · Link

    I really think it boils down to a lack of grace. People have forgotten how much manners and a sense of humility can make life so much more gracious. We are, as a society, so quick to make sure that “I’m The One That Matters”, “I’m The One That Is Special” No One Can Get Over Anything On Me” that we slash and burn the landscape of friendship and family everywhere we go.

    Being gracious, having manners, respecting other people and a good sense of humor is, as far as I’m concerned, some of the best things that we can start to teach our children to change the attitudes that are eroding our self worth and the self worth of others. Ok, off my soapbox!

  13. Marie
    · September 15th, 2010 at 6:25 am · Link

    Thanks for writing this blog post! It’s the kind of post that makes me think about things, and that I really love because of it.

    I agree with you about the importance of being able to admit you’re wrong, and apologize if you’ve hurt someone by what you said. I don’t know if it’s always something you can do, though.

    You still have to be able to say what you think in important matters, and I don’t mean that it’s okay to impose your opinion on people who don’t want it. Sometimes people are just so sensitive about a subject that it doesn’t matter what you say, it’s going to hurt them. But you can’t let that stop you if you feel it’s an important issue. Religion is one of those things people are very sensitive about. Some people take it personally if you criticize their religion or religous figures. You can’t not say those those things just because it hurts someone. Certainly you don’t have to say it to them directly, or argue with them about it. But if it’s a general statement on a website or a newspaper, you have to be able to write that even if it hurts people.

    I absolutely agree with you that it is a grown up thing to apologize to someone you’ve hurt, and it’s not mature of someone to tell the person they’ve hurt that they have to grow up. But one part of life is that you also have to know that people have different opinions, and I have to be able to have an opinion about something without having to apologize for it. I can of course apologize if stating my opinion hurts people, but I don’t know if it helps if I still have that opinion and express it?

    Donna is right in that there is a difference between saying sorry because someone was hurt and saying sorry because I hurt that person. If I say something that hurts someone, of course I’m sorry, and I can say that I’m sorry. But I don’t know if it matters to them when they know that I have no understanding for why they’re upset.

    Sigh…I think it can be a difficult question…


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