"Sorry" isn't just what the loser says.
That seems like a simple enough idea, but I think you really need to stop and think about it for a moment before its true meaning dawns on you.
If "sorry" isn't for the loser of an argument, what does that say about who was correct?
It's not relevant to the argument. It doesn't signify who was correct, or who argued better.
It only means that you're empathizing with the person who is telling you they are upset, and that you feel bad that whatever you did or said.You are acknowledging that you caused it.
There was a fantastic article written a number of years ago by a Dutch journalist that I wish I could find again. It was during a "political correctness" backlash period, when it became fashionable to put down PC and make up reasons why it was such a terrible idea, how it was a form of tyrannical censorship, and so on.
"Look at America," he countered. "It has representatives of every nation, religion, ethnic group and philosophy on the face of the Earth - and yet there's very little friction among the groups, relatively speaking. The reason America is able to exist at all is because of a 'forced' set of rules about how to behave toward each other".
Those "rules" are Political Correctness. It's a necessary imposition done for the good of society as a whole. It forces tact on the tactless.
The specific rules of PC - why one thing is allowed while something else isn't - is dictated by the group who takes offense. That's an important point to remember.
But what does that have to do with saying "sorry"? It's actual quite straightforward. When I behave politically correct - when I refrain from saying something that a group of people has stated is upsetting to them - I am sympathizing with them and putting their feelings above my need to say whatever I want. I am functioning as a member of a Society.
When I say, "Sorry" instead of insisting that I have no need to apologize, I am doing the same thing. I'm putting the need for you and I to be able to live together above my personal need to make my joke or say what I want. This DOESN'T mean that what I said was necessarily bad, only that I see that it caused ill-feeling among some people, and that I've given it some thought.
The problem that occurs is when people think that, having said something others find tasteless or offensive, they now feel that the discussion is centered around whether or not it really is those things. "Being offensive" is an offense, and if they are guilty then they need to apologize. Therefore, saying sorry is a preemptive admission of "guilt".
It isn't. The ensuing battle is rarely about original comment. The anger isn't about that was first said - it was about the speaker's attitude when you told them you felt bad about it. It is about their refusal to empathize with you; their refusal to behave as a part of your Society.
Of course, this is the real world, and there are practical problems to what I'm suggesting. Being forced to be considerate ALL the time can be stressful; likewise, since we never know what might set off some overly sensitive person, we must maintain a Marine-like preparedness to pull out the "S-word" at a moment's notice. Fortunately, even with the current population levels, there are plenty of mountain tops and backwoods areas with no internet access where you can live fully isolated from the demands of a soft world.
For the rest of us, it's a pretty easy way to get along.
As always, discussion is welcome: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7281102