DEAR MISS MANNERS: How can one respond when someone apologizes for something that really warrants an apology?
An automatic response for many people is to say, “Don’t worry about it,” “No worries” or “That’s OK.” But these responses suggest that whatever was done or whatever happened is acceptable and OK to do again.
Example: A friend’s dog peed on my shoe when I was at her house -- I was trying to leave, and was frankly really irritated (this dog has housebreaking issues). She apologized, and I unthinkingly said, “It’s OK.” My friend said, “No, it’s not OK,” and I answered, “Well, no it’s not, but I’m not holding it against you.”
How can one accept an apology in a way that acknowledges that it was owed? I can only think of, “Apology accepted,” which sounds rather stiff. Or, “Thank you for apologizing,” which sounds rather awkward in some situations. Any other suggestions?
GENTLE READER: Awkward and stiff are not things to be avoided: They are the solution to your problem.
That very discomfort underscores that offense was given -- allowing your words to be gracious without being dismissive. Miss Manners avoids the colloquial “It’s OK” for many reasons, not least of which is her desire to leave no doubt that she would indeed object to anyone’s peeing on her shoes.