Class,Generation Gaps, and Apologies

Recently we had a large, rather messy blow-up in my family. Things were said and done that created a sizable, possibly irreparable rift between two family members. The problem is that the younger of the two involved, who married into this clan is not aware of what constitutes a formal, respectful apology. The older of the two is very proper and although a significant coolness and pointed politeness has accented his conversation when in the younger man’s presence, he is consistently courteous. The younger man seems to be unaware of his lack of proper apology. A few days after the incident, he telephoned the older man and said he needed to talk to him but didn’t want to do it over the phone and could the older man come over to his house. This upset the older man, who felt that he shouldn’t have to take a trip to recieve his apology so he declined with rather killing politeness. Since then, the younger man considers the subject closed. The fact that the older man is unfailingly polite when they meet apparently led him to believe that any past problem has been, if not resolved, at least swept under the rug, which is how the younger man’s family deals with blow-ups. The young man has done everything that his people do to make something up to someone; he thanks the older man profusely for any small assistance that would normally just warrant a casual “thanks”, he makes certain to speak to him politely each time they meet, and has tried to “show” that the incident will not reccur by his actions. The problem came up again because the younger man is expecting a substantial amount of money and wants to take the whole family out to an expensive dinner. The older man says he has yet to recieve an apology from the younger man and while he will not be rude when they meet, he is not willing to be treated to dinner by this man at this time.

My problem is this; how do you show a person how to properly apologize without rubbing his upbringing in his face?

The way I was raised dictates that I be polite and respectful to my elders, apologize promptly and face to face, as well as ask the offended person what I could do to rectify the situation.

I understand that some people were not raised this way, and on some level I feel that the older man, being aware of the differences in upbringing, should take into account that the young man lacks polish in some areas and that he should be held to a lower standard than someone  reared in polite society.

Reading my last sentence made me cringe because I hate class snobbery and elitism. That said, there is an undeniable difference in etiquette between cultures, races, classes, and generations that cannot be disregarded.

If anyone has suggestions or comments, I would greatly appreciate them as I am at a complete loss  in this situation.



  1. July 10, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    God, culture clashes can SUCK. Especially when they’re between close friends. I don’t know the people, so take my advice with a huge grain of salt. You know what’s going on the best.

    If you’re reasonably close with the younger man, go talk to him. Tell him “in this clan this is what you do to apologise” in very specific terms. Tell him that you know that no culture is inherently better than any other and that you don’t think either way is wrong. If you’re frustrated with the situation, don’t hide it.

    Once again, my 2 cents.

  2. Cereus Sphinx said,

    July 14, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    I really need to learn to check the dates on posts.

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