Saying “I’m sorry” is hard for neurotypical people.
It’s not that hard for us.
“What?” you say. “Dude, you just said apologies are hard!”
Yep, they are.
What’s the phrase, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it?” It’s different for autistic people, because there’s an added dimension that defies our solving:
It’s not how we say we’re sorry; it’s that others cannot tell if we’re sorry or not.
I’ve spent a good bit reading up on how to voice apology without qualification, excuse, keeping it simple enough to admit wrong and relay why it wronged another.
But for us autistic people, it doesn’t matter. Why?
People assume we don’t feel sorry.
I get when it’s a hasty apology, or when it’s just words coming out to diffuse tension, or something insincere and excuse-laden.
But we hear things like:
“You don’t sound like you’re sorry.”
“I don’t think you understand what you did.”
“You should feel worse about this.”
People, people, people — help us out here.
If we’re owning our blame, conveying that we wronged you and elaborated on why, and we’re apologizing, without qualifications, to make peace and seek genuine restoration in doing better, then please accept that.
It is difficult enough for us to navigate emotional and empathetic gaps, but we’re not heartless people. Please don’t assume our heartfelt apologies are any less sincere because we’re half-robot.
There’s a line that sticks with me in Moana, when Maui apologizes to Te Fiti.
“Look, what I did was …. wrong. I have no excuse. I’m sorry.”
The sad reality: if Maui was autistic, no one would believe him.