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Saturday, December 19, 2009


I came across a podcast that addressed the question about what makes a good apology and what does not. Can't find it at the moment, but what's interesting to me is that I tend to remember the negatives:
DON'T use the word BUT. An example would be, "I'm sorry, BUT you started it."
DON'T use the word IF. My least favorite apology: "I'm sorry IF you're offended." The clear implication is that you really SHOULDN'T be offended, but I better say it anyway.
The one DO I recall: Do say the word. "I apologize" or "I'm sorry."

I was at a wedding once, and all the family members on my side, even people less close to the bride than I was, were included in the program. except me. This, I believe, was an honest mistake. The person who put it together spent about five minutes apologizing without apologizing, saying, finally, "I just don't apologize," as if that were some soerrt of badge of honor.

And the idea of the public apology, which we seem to have seen lots of, utterly fascinates me. Mark Sanford. David Letterman. Kobe Bryant. Eliot Spitzer. Tiger Woods, sort of; I mean the apology was "sort of". It's such a cliche they've made a TV drama about it: the Good Wife on CBS.

Of course, there are instances where one may be afraid to say I'm sorry for legal reasons. Canada has bandied about having legislation allowing people to say “I’m sorry” without assuming legal responsibility for their actions.

In other words, saying you’re sorry can’t be used against you later as evidence in civil court. “The goal of the legislation is to encourage sincere apologies,” said the Ontario Attorney General. “Saying sorry for a mistake or wrongdoing is the right thing to do.”

Proponents of the law say the ability to make an apology without legal consequences will help ease hard feelings, resolve disputes, and reduce the number of lengthy, costly lawsuits.

The Apology Act is partly based on the actions of more than 30 states across the U.S. where apology laws have been enacted specifically to make it easier for doctors to say “I’m sorry” instead of “See you in court.” Under those laws, an apology for a medical mistake is inadmissible in court.

My questions:

1. What are we the public, not the wronged party in their marriage, due from celebrity screw-ups? Is there some formula that I can plug in, tallying their level of fame, whether they are government officials, the number of times they appear on the cover of national magazines, the frequency and length of the indiscretion. Whether the guy - it's usually a guy - refers to the "other woman" as his "soul mate".

2. Should we have laws allowing for apologies for, say medical malpractice, without that apology be admissible in court?

3. How are you at apologizing to your smaller, more private flaws? I THINK I'm pretty good, but I could be mistaken, oblivious to some opportunities to say "I'm sorry" more often.

1 comment:

Uthaclena said...

Regarding "What are we the public, not the wronged party in their marriage, due from celebrity screw-ups? " I'd say, nothing. No one is due an apology, otherwise it starts off insincere, doesn't it? The person has to want to apologize. Then, we have to weigh the sincerity once delivered; it's transparently obvious that most celebrities are just doing it to cover their gluteii, or that they're really just sorry that they got caught, not because they've transgressed their own values.

Not to sound heartless regarding legal cover for apologies for medical mistakes, but it really depends a lot on degree of error, because there is so much room for practitioners to cause harm. Prescribed the wrong medication, and it caused you to throw up? Okay, I accept the apology. Prescribed the wrong medication that caused me to pass out while driving with resultant injuries? "I'm sorry" doesn't pay the bills.
(As a side note, I've read about several people recently being allowed out of prison after 25 years, exonerated by DNA evidence after being wrongly convicted; I'd say these people are due some serious compensation for being robbed of a large portion of their lives, too.)