What did I do?
What should I have done instead?
Who suffered and how?
When I examine the results, I find that they fall into five categories:
The act constituted a definite harm for which an amend is necessary. Action: formal amend.
No real harm was done, but an apology is required as a courtesy. Action: low-key apology.
The act was an error which merely needs correcting in my future behaviour. Action: corrective measure.
The act was part of the normal rough and tumble of life. Action: none.
The act was entirely harmless. Action: none.
Common sense will usually resolve which category an item falls within.
Where common sense fails, these questions may help to focus the mind:
What principle, rule, or custom did I breach?
Is the principle, rule, or custom universal?
Is it specific to a particular social, familial, or professional context?
How do I know this is a principle, rule, or custom?
Where did that information come from?
Is the source reliable?
Is it a principle, rule, or custom I see others observing?
It is a principle, rule, or custom I am morally obliged to follow?
Are there are any moral precepts involved?
If so, which?
Is the principle, rule, or custom hard and fast or merely a flexible guideline?
Would acting differently have breached any other principle, rule, or custom?
Have I ever breached the principle, rule, or custom in other relationships?
Did/do such breaches require amends in those relationships?
Do I see that principle, rule, or custom breached between others around me?
If so, do I see lasting harm being done?
If so, do I see temporary upset?
If so, are formal amends made?
If so, are apologies made?
Has anyone ever breached that principle, rule, or custom with me?
If so, was I harmed, was I merely upset, or was I unaffected?
If I was upset, was that reasonable, or was that because I was unduly touchy or sensitive?
If the act in question is not generally harmful, why do I think it was harmful in this case?
Did the other person contribute to the harmful situation?
Did they express consent, actively participate, fail to object or withdraw, or otherwise show that they were not actually upset, affronted, harmed, etc.?
Is the other person mentally ill, mentally disabled, a minor, physically frail, or otherwise disadvantaged, subordinate, or dependent such that they are not able to withhold consent or participation or to object or withdraw?
Was otherwise harmful or hurtful behaviour justified as a defensive measure?
Did the other person say that they had been harmed or upset, temporarily or for longer?
Have you observed a change in the person's behaviour towards you since the action?
Has anyone else reported to you that the person was harmed or upset?
Has anyone told you that your behaviour was wrong?
Is that person of sound mind, rational, sensible, and emotionally mature?
Have you already apologised?
Was the apology accepted?
Have you already corrected the behaviour?
Has the relationship already returned to normal?
A careful consideration of these questions will likely make the penny drop.