Communicating clearly is crucial when you’re apologizing, especially if you want to make your perspective heard too. If your apology has a “but” in it, consider switching the parts before and after the “but”. This will put the focus on your apology, instead of the reason for your behavior.
Freelance writer Jim Henley has a rule for apologies and heated conversations: “In any charged conversation, find any statements containing the conjunction ‘but’ and reverse the clauses.” He gives an example of how it works:
Compare, “I’m sorry I yelled at you, but what you said made me really angry.” and “What you said made me really angry, but I’m sorry I yelled at you.” As a coordinating conjunction, ‘but’ joins independent and theoretically equal clauses. But in practice, what follows ‘but’ always dominates what precedes it. So if you really want to apologize, and really want to mollify your interlocutor, you really want to make sure the apology itself is in the dominant position. Otherwise, you’re not apologizing; you’re excusing your own conduct.
Naturally, most of us say the most important thing in the first part and say the reason or explanation in the second part. However, the word “but” usually puts emphasis on the second part and takes attention away from the first part. The word “but” can be very powerful, but (heh) sometimes it could help to change your “but” into an “and”.
Jim’s Rule of Buts | Unqualified Offerings
Photo by Daniela Vladimirova.