Saturday, September 18, 2021

Apologize - why, when and how!

Growing up, our parents used to teach the principles of  compassion to you when you were nasty to another kid. You'd first of all have to explain to their satisfaction how you would feel if someone acted that way towards you. Then, once they were sure it was genuine, and a suitable reflective time had gone by, you, the miscreant, would apologize. Sometimes it was very hard to actually feel sorry, especially when you had to apologize to a sibling. Nevertheless, it was expected you’d see the light.

Deceitful behavior, when it was discovered, was another reason for an apology. Lying was part of that one too. Bullying was bad, and not tolerated, as it was unfair to gang up on a kid. You'd be ashamed, and probably have to apologise, not only to the victim, but the parents too. 

Hard to describe what shame is these days. It used to be a feeling you got deep inside you, something very unwelcome. You’d not want to repeat that, so you resolved privately not to do whatever it was, ever again.

Schoolyard fights happened between boys, and it was always one on one. No gang of kids gathered around shooting videos of someone’s pain, while hoping to go viral on YouTube. Come to think of it, there was no YouTube either, and viral hadn’t yet entered the lexicon, except as it related to a truly terrible disease spread.

Again, it was better that parents weren't involved in this kind of thing, as they would definitely disapprove, and painful consequences would be applied. But you always knew, with these more extreme behaviors that the head of the school would undoubtedly report to your parents, and the latter were usually supportive of the teachers, not you!

Image via Gerd Altmann of Pixabay

Professional Apologists

Have you noticed how apologies are becoming as swift and meaningless as a meteorologist’s  weather forecast? There’s now a specific formula for apologies in the corporate world. 

Thank the marketing folks for that again. Their wisdom of the day demands the person who has engaged in mass fraud or worse, will apologise, first and foremost, before bringing in the multiple jackal lawyers.

That’s not quite as straightforward as it first appears. There’ve always been brave, hard-nosed folks who dare to flout the law or society rules. It’s called doing the deed you know is wrong, and then asking  for forgiveness later.  This has become more and more popular as folks have come to recognize the consequences for engaging in this behaviour attract few penalties.

In the dog-eat-dog world of corporations, apologies are public ways to convince the world of your sincerity, even though you’ve hired a team of professional apology writers to do the foundational work for you. There are so many apologies out there now, it would be impossible and very boring to relate them. Just think of the recent spate of #me too examples - if you care to!

Of course those apologists are usually men. Even though their moms presumably gave them the same apology training as young children, it doesn’t seem to stick like it does with the girls.  Studies show women apologize with much more ease and more often than men.

Researchers analyzed the number of self-reported offenses and apologies made by 66 subjects over a 12-day period. And yes, they confirmed women consistently apologized more times than men did. But they also found that women report more offenses than men. So the issue is not female over-apology. Instead, there may be a gender difference in what is considered offensive in the first place.

—Scientific American

People grade apologies, as being best or worst. They’re relished all over social media, sort of like the village gossip on mega steroids. Try this one, a hedge fund guy who lost all his clients money.

Hedge fund manager's apology video goes viral

Not to be outdone in the potty mouth rendering, Samantha Bee ( whoever she is) delivered a truly disgusting remark about Ivanka Trump. No shame. People go so far as to excuse her, saying she routinely  uses these expletives. What used to be a case for parents bringing in the wash your mouth out with soap, young lady and then apologize consequence is now prehistoric. Well, she did apologize, saying she’d “…crossed the line.” She didn’t say she’d change her behaviour though.

I guess that used to be the point of an apology. You reflected, you came to a realization that you’d hurt someone or many people by your actions or words. You understood something needed to change in you and your behaviour. 

It helps if you get that an apology is not to make yourself feel better. It’s to help the person or people you’ve wronged feel better.  Psychology Today has figured out a good apology has five essential components:

1. A clear ‘I’m sorry’ statement.

2. An expression of regret for what happened.

3. An acknowledgment that social norms or expectations were violated.

4. An empathy statement acknowledging the full impact of our actions on the other person.

5. A request for forgiveness.

Sounds a lot like you used to learn from your parents.

Number four on this list is interesting, and probably the one least seen in our frantic, sped-up lives of today. Putting yourself in the shoes of that wronged person is what keeps society kind and helpful. 

Canadians are well known for their habit of apologizing for perceived infractions they’ve committed. They’ll apologize for all kinds of small things in life. But it’s kinda nice. Sometimes they’re even aware an apology isn’t necessary. One of my biggest smiles happened after I apologized to our dog when we both wanted to go through a doorway at the same time! 

Whenever I watch TV I’m moved to offer silent apologies to the small children who might be doing the same. Surely watching the uncaring behaviours of adults depicted on the screen must in time desensitize them to feeling compassion for others?

Did you get “the training” of apologizing when you were growing up? Please feel free to share your insights in the comments section below. You don’t need to use your actual name if you prefer not to, and your email address will never be shared with anyone. Your comments are valuable, and can even be life-changing for some readers.

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Many thanks for reading and apologies if I’ve taken up too much of your time!

Garden Glimpse

This is how I grow my onions, also most of the vegetables. The seeds are planted in clumps in their seed trays.  Then later they’re planted in the same clumps in the garden. As they mature the smaller ones are just twisted out, and so on until only one in each clump is left. It grows to its maximum size, no digging, no fertilizer, just more good compost and soil is added to the bed each year.

Big Walla Walla onion, just pulled out of the soil and drying off for storage


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