What You Can Learn From Those Dreadful Public Apologies

Take note of this hidden sleaze-factor in public apologies.

Posted Dec 03, 2017

Perhaps you've noticed that the public apologies making headlines these days are empty, vague, minimizing, obfuscating, self-serving, and gaslighting. 

Even the better ones are bad — at least when it comes to powerful men saying "sorry" for sexual violations they have committed. The offending party "apologizes" by focusing on his sorrow and regret for the pain he has caused ("To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry and deeply ashamed."), but fails to clearly and directly state the words and behaviors for which he is sorry.

There's no real accountability here.

Pay attention to this error that undoes the sincerity of any apology, whether for large betrayals or everyday hurts. A common way any one of us can ruin an apology is to say, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Or, “I deeply regret that what I did made you upset/disappointed/angry." Or, "I’m sorry I caused pain to so many people." Or, "I'm sorry I disappointed you."

A sincere apology focuses on the specific words or behaviors for which you are sorry, rather than being sorry that the other person reacted as they did. 

Take note when a public figure gets the apology wrong. Take care to get it right yourself. A bad apology only deepens the original injury and is worse than no apology at all.