An older man barges into me. While I think he could have prevented that, I don't assume he had any bad intentions. He then apologizes and I want to accept the apology, but how?

Just saying "It's OK" doesn't feel right for me, since if everything is OK, there would be no reason to excuse him. But I also don't want to come across as strange or be impolite/rude.

I just want to inform that person that I accept the apology without phrasing it in a way that won't imply that there was/is no kind of problem.

There actually is nothing that bothers me there, but saying something along the lines "It's OK" or "No problem" would not be an option for me in a situation like this.

So how should I communicate something that preferably gives the feeling to that person that I said "It's OK" under the previously mentioned constraints?

I have Asperger's which means that, in this very specific context, I feel uncomfortable with expressing something that feels untrue for me.

  • 3
    FYI, we don't say "I'm having Asperger" in English. Try "I have Asperger's", "I've been diagnosed with Asperger's", or just "I'm on the ASD spectrum." – curiousdannii Jun 28 '17 at 7:31
  • 1
    @dhein - no, you don't need to remove the [asperger] tag. But apologies and acceptance of them will differ greatly in different countries, and so the answer will change depending on where you're located. – Arwen Undómiel Jan 9 at 11:59
up vote 40 down vote accepted

Depending on how comfortable you feel saying it, you could simply say:

"Thank you, don't worry about it"

And then smile politely.

You're not saying something untrue as it was an accident and I doubt you want the person to worry about what he did for the rest of the day, so I feel as though that is a very good alternative for "it's okay" and often I say "don't worry about it" after an apology, as the apology was needed, but I don't want them to be distressed over what they have done.

If you still feel uncomfortable with "no problem" you can just say "Thanks" or "Thank you" for a similar effect.

  • 4
    Saying Thank you was the way I took so far. But I always felt like comming over a bit condescending when doing so. Also the linked post did pick that in comments up as not very polite, thats why I kept worrying. I think the addition of "don't worry about it" gives it a friendly subtone (What I actually want to achieve) So this is probably exactly what I need. I will still wait untill tomorrow before accepting a answer. – dhein Jun 28 '17 at 7:14
  • 2
    @dhein That's a really good idea on SE, always wait a day or two before selecting an answer as then you can have a wider range of potential answers to accept. Accepting an answer too early is even considered bad in some cases. – Crafter0800 Jun 28 '17 at 7:22

I am delighted to see the question and the interactions. I am (or try to be) a student of life, and I feel I've learned something today.

I suggest:

"I'm fine; thank you." If he seems unsteady himself, you might then ask, "Are you OK?"

"I'll be (or I am) fine. Don't worry about it."

[After any manner of chuckle]: "You have a good day, Sir." It's not important you acknowledge his apology at all, as long as you acknowledge the person and come across as not wounded.

Finally, because you will hopefully be in this world for a good long time, you may want to consider further analysis of the mental construct behind "It's OK," because it will be a part of your culture all the rest of your days.

Break it down: It is OK. The unintentional bump was a moment ago. Now, moving on, what is important to the accidental offenders is that you ARE OK, that despite their action, life IS OK.

I get it; it makes you feel queasy. It's like you're saying, "It's OK, you can bump into me all day long." But of course you're not OK with that, at all! So it feels like a lie. But ... it's not. Because you're going to change what the pronoun "it" stands for, in your mind. "It" will not stand for the fact he ran into you, but for your status thereafter.

I have a disability myself, and I do not lightly suggest concession or compromise ... but if you can change how you look at this one thing, it could really help you a lot.

Just this one thing, dhein. Just change this one thing.

But hey, if you can't, or you choose not to ... it's OK. :)

  • 1
    It all comes down to the user of the words "Please" and "Thank You". This IMHO is the most well-rounded answer. Acknowledging the personal apology with an accepting "Thank you" and then giving a concise status with it. Then the most genteel addition is adding concern for the other person with "Are you alright?". – CloneZero Aug 16 '17 at 21:34

I'm on the autistic spectrum too, sometimes understanding why neurotypical people do the things they do helps me to deal with them...

It may be an oversimplification, but to my understanding saying "it's ok" or "no problem" upon receiving an apology isn't the same as saying that there was no reason to apologize.

In English at least, saying "no problem" seems like a less formal way of saying "I accept your apology, and I don't intend to hold a grudge"

So, basically phrases like "it's ok" or "no problem" are more about informing the offender that you don't intend to hold a grudge, or perhaps more directly put, that you don't expect to have problems with them in the future.

English uses a lot of informal phrases that may seem odd, but they make some sense socially.

For instance, if someone ran into you and said "I'm sorry, my mistake" and you responded "Yes it was your mistake and I accept your apology." You'd likely be perceived as rude, or at least a little passive aggressive, for saying "yes it was your mistake."

On the other hand saying "It's ok" conveys roughly the same meaning, but avoids the negative perception by using informal language.

If you really insist on using formal language "I accept your apology" works just fine, but the formality will likely sound odd to people as it's usually reserved for much more serious offences.

  • 2
    Thanks for your input. I have to say, what you advise me to do is what I'm exactly doing in my everyday life. So +1 since it might be of help for other readers. I realized, that as soon I understand the motivations of others doing something, I'm the most tactful person in that regards. But my problem is, I have hard times to understanding others until I experienced an identical situation my self. Consciously I know how "No problem" is meant. But there is always that sub-voice asking myself then "But how can you know for sure you are perceiving correct?" – dhein Jun 30 '17 at 7:50
  • 2
    And since I (thats by the way why I also tagged it as literal) when I in their situation and would apologize or excuse my self, am feeling, well not uncomfortable, but overwhelmed getting "No problem" as response, since sometimes it obviously looks like there IS a problem while they say it, I can't understand it and don't really know how to mimic it, so I prefer staying in patterns I know.... If that makes any sense. – dhein Jun 30 '17 at 7:53
  • 1
    Yes. "No Problem" means there will BE no problem, not that there WAS no problem. – kbelder Jan 12 at 0:45

Even on a purely literal level, "No problem" doesn't mean that no problem has occurred. Unless there's good reason to assume otherwise, people will assume you're referring to the present situation (as opposed to one second ago, or whenever it was that the other person did what they're apologising for).

What you're saying when you say "No problem", then, is that there is now no problem. They've accepted they did something to inconvenience you, and have apologised. At least within the scope of the verbal exchange (which covers, I think, only the relationship between the two of you as people, rather than necessarily the consequences of their mistake or wrongdoing beyond that) the problem that was there before is no longer a problem.

I personally prefer to say "No worries", in these situations, because I think it's a less ambiguous version of the same. You're telling them you recognise that mistakes happen, and you don't want them to worry about it.

Of course, this all assumes you don't want them to worry about it, but I'm taking it for granted here that you wouldn't be asking this if you did.

Also, though this might depend quite a lot on the person's culture and/or personality, I would personally advise against "Apology accepted". I think the explicit mention of the apology places too much emphasis on it, and could be construed as an attempt to emphasise that you feel they need to apologise. Of course, you may feel that way, and may not mind them knowing it, but it's probably worth bearing in mind that people might see it that way, whereas I don't think you have any such danger with "No problem" or "No worries".

  • 1
    Well, on a purely literal level I would say "Thats not a problem anymore". Might sound weird, but as already mentioned, it isn't helping me how something is inter socially is understood. Thats the whole thing about aspergers, but it matters how I can understand it for my self/lay it out. And I'm aware how it is meant, but it makes no sense for me, so I feel queasy when saying it like that. Your answer just explains how it is meant to be, what I'm partial already aware of and overall isn't solving the problem. So sorry for not even up voting, but I can't see any useful help in this. – dhein Jul 20 '17 at 4:56
  • 2
    In that case, I simply don't understand the problem. All verbal communication rests on the assumption that what we say will be interpreted in a specific way by the reciever. If your intepretation of the phrase doesn't match that of the people around you, you either have to convince everyone else to change their interpretation, or change your own. I don't have aspergers, though, so perhaps there are obstacles to this that exist for you and not for me. – TheTermiteSociety Jul 20 '17 at 10:31
  • 1
    " I don't have aspergers, though, so perhaps there are obstacles to this that exist for you and not for me." exactly. Thats also why I tried to make clear that this OP and interpersonal.stackexchange.com/q/11/32 are 2 distinct none duplicate questions. The thing is having aspergers means for me I need to work by rules I understand in a well defined way. Interpretations cause a lot of trouble for asperger's. So if something contradicts with a rule I have to throw over the rule and possibly all build upon on it or I need to find a way make it fit into my rules. – dhein Jul 20 '17 at 10:45
  • 1
    Another problem about asperger's the four side model isn't working as it would work for neuro typicals. We have trouble in sending and receiving on any other then the factual information layer. even if we want to express emotions I feel insecure I transported it when not expressed factual. And also have trouble receiving any other kind. So one of my fundamental rules to get through life is being as literal as possible. And since I can't just throw this rule away (and even making an exception wouldn't really help, since I still had trouble to interpret) "Don't take it too literal" Doesn't help – dhein Jul 20 '17 at 10:50

If the apology was enough to resolve the man's social obligation for bumping into you, then "No worries" is the best choice. It simply says that there is no need for further discussion or interaction about it. The man should not worry that there is something else that needs to be done.

You could also show concern for him. "I'm ok. Are you ok?" -- Is it possible that he barged because he lost his footing or was hurt in the process?

First of all, the "it" in "It's OK" does not refer to the problem. It refers to the resulting distress.
So the statement "it's OK" is 100% true—you are okay with the distress, or you wouldn't forgive.

That said, my go-to line is

No worries!

since it tells them neither of you need to worry about the issue (which you both understand).

The response that I give when I've wanted, and feel I deserve, the apology:

"Thank you, I appreciate that."

I like this because it states that our relationship remains intact, but implies that I'm not ok with what they did: They should not just forget about it, rather, it was a problem, and I don't want them to do it again.

Oddly, this implication only works because the standard method of accepting an apology is to "blow it off", as described in TheTermiteSociety's Answer.

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.