Apologies seems to be the hardest words

MA-Caver

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From another discussion group I'm in... interesting read... I believe this is a cut/paste from a Jane Feinmann article. Trying to find the source of it all.

A sorry state of affairs
Apologising is agonising, but it's worth it. Jane Feinmann learns how to say the hardest word
28 December 2004

Timothy McVeigh didn't do it. Nor did Monica Lewinsky. Tony Blair said he'd done it even though he hadn't - and eventually got someone else (Patricia Hewitt) to do it for him. For different reasons, none of these three offered an adequate apology for doing wrong - and the world, it seems, is a poorer place because of it.

Apology has never been the buzz word of the therapeutic community. Psychologists have preferred to focus on the healing benefits of forgiving and letting go. That could all change in 2005, however, with the publication in March of an authoritative new book claiming that the apology is "one of the most profound interactions that can occur between people".

Arguing that forgiveness inevitably follows an effective apology and is impossible without it, Professor Aaron Lazare, Dean of the University of Massachusetts medical school and the author of On Apology, says saying sorry has the power "to heal humiliations, free the mind from deep-seated guilt, remove the desire for vengeance, and restore broken relationships".

The change will be welcomed by Peter Saunders, 48, who discovered eight years ago, when he first started to talk about the sexual and emotional abuse that he experienced as a child, that he was expected to forgive the perpetrator. "The first person I told was a nun, and her response was to say that she would pray that I could forgive and move on - as if I could forgive someone who won't even acknowledge what happened. I felt like punching her; I was so angry. And I got the same message from a police officer to whom I reported the abuse, as well as three very badly informed therapists that I consulted."

On Apology provides a guide to the problems of forgiving those who trespass against us. "A wronged person is in a state of humiliated rage, interpreting the external world through the lens of fear and rage," explains Lazare. Anyone who has experienced humiliation knows the feeling: of being "stunned" for several minutes after the offence, with "thoughts about the event seeming to multiply, intensify and persist for hours or even days". Then comes the anger, intense and distressing, motivating often irrational behaviour and gradually resolving into a grudge, "a form of residual or dormant anger".

Lazare says that his years as a practising psychiatrist and psychotherapist have involved "heart-wrenching observation of grudges in families, lasting from weeks to a lifetime, resulting from the unwillingness of individuals to apologise and to forgive".

Ending this suffering, however, needs more than a mumbled "sorry". "Two parties must participate in an interaction at high risk of producing discomfort: the offender, in the position of a supplicant who exposes weaknesses and risks rejection or retaliation; and the offended party, who may be may be reluctant to relinquish a treasured grudge or even admit being hurt."

A good apology, says Lazare, works by satisfying distinct psychological needs: it restores self-respect to people who were "initially humiliated and rendered powerless" by the offence, and "[it transfers] the humiliation from the victim to the offender, who then becomes the stupid, insensitive or immoral one". Such a message can be far more satisfying to the victim than any amount of compensation.

Bill Clinton's passionate apology to the African-Americans who were the subjects of the infamous syphilis experiments at Tuskegee was successful because it acknowledged that people with rights like any others had been treated as "non-human experimental subjects" by an immoral state. Less successful was Arnold Schwarzenegger's mea culpa when he was accused of groping women's breasts during an election campaign. He said only that he "had done things which were not right, which I thought was playful", provoking the sour response from the American National Organisation for Women: "Your behaviour was not playful; it was illegal."

The greatest apology ever, says Lazare, was delivered by Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural address. He offered an apology full of humility and remorse for the "national offence" of slavery, describing how "one-eighth of the whole population" had been forced into "250 years of unrequited toil" by "blood drawn with the lash".

Compare Lincoln's humility to a more recent errant soul, Lewinsky, who, says Lazare, "lives in a world in which there are no rights and wrongs, and for whom the language of shame and regret does not exist. She was quite literally shameless. What was missing in all her interviews was remorse, the recognition that she hurt others."

More common than the non-apology is the pseudo-apology "that does not acknowledge the offence adequately, or fails to express genuine remorse," continues Lazare. Politicians, for example, sometimes use "sorry" in terms of sympathy rather than remorse - as in the US ambassador Walter Mondale's apology to the Japanese people on the 50th anniversary of the American bombing of Tokyo.

Another common pseudo-apology uses the conditional to avoid taking full responsibility for what has happened. Cardinal Edward Egan, of New York, qualified the apology he delivered at the height of the Catholic Church's paedophile crisis, three times in a sentence: "If in hindsight we also discover that mistakes may have been made as regards prompt removal of priests and assistance to victims, I am deeply sorry." Few were reassured.

Typically, Tony Blair's apology for entering the Iraq war based on inaccurate information, delivered by Hewitt in October, offered an excuse - "it was an incredibly difficult decision" - alongside a conditional claim that despite the errors, "I don't think we were wrong to go in".

Probably the most dangerous pseudo-apology is one that does not involve a subsequent change of behaviour. Instead of "love means never having to say you're sorry", it should be, "love is being able to say 'I'm sorry and I mean it'," says Ken Blanchard, in his book The One Minute Apology (HarperCollins). "An apology needs to be substantiated by a change in behaviour that recognises the hurt caused to others and demonstrates a commitment not to repeat the act."

"Without a change in behaviour, saying sorry can be despicable," says Jim Waters, the NSPCC's development manager. "An apology can bring closure and even the rebuilding of a relationship between abuser and abused. But the words 'I'm sorry' can also be part of a process by which an abuser will return to repeat the abuse. And without a wholehearted commitment to change, this will inevitably happen in any situation where there is an element of addiction or repetitive behaviour."

But even without receiving a sincere apology, the victims of an offence can recover. Saunders, who founded and is now director of the National Association of People Abused in Childhood (Napac), believes that effective therapy can help profoundly injured people to come to terms with their experience - even if they are not able to forgive. "There are Napac members who have been reconciled with abusers who have shown remorse and such forgiveness is very powerful. But it can't be imposed."

MEA CULPA: HOW TO DO IT RIGHT

Four reasons why people won't apologise

* Fear that the recipient will lose respect, become smug, make a scene or withhold forgiveness.

* The belief that, if you don't apologise, the offended party will remain unaware that any offence has been committed against them.

* A strong desire not to feel weak, defeated, guilty or in any way a loser.

* Ignorance about how to apologise properly.

Four factors that make a good apology

* A fully expressed sense of remorse, shame and humility on the part of the offender.

* Specificity about the grievance: it can be helpful to list all the causes of offence.

* A willingness to take responsibility for the offence - thereby assuring the victim that it was not their fault.

* A willingness to make reparation where necessary, and - vitally - to go on to change harmful behaviour.
 
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raedyn

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I think it's important that an apology is heartfelt. It's an important gesture if it is genuine, but a hollow apology can be fairly offensive. Just because someone can go through the motions of say "sorry" doesn't immediately entitle them to forgiveness.

When I was in elementary school, I learned exactly how useless can apology can be. At our school, if Johnny hit Susie or called her names, both kids were pulled aside and given a lecture about how everyone should be nice, then Johnny was told he must apologize to Susie or else he wouldn't get to go to recess. So Johnny could cross his arms, scowl, say sarcastically "Sorry" then the teacher would turn to Susie and demand that Susie accept the apology. If Susie refused to say she accepted the apology and forgave Johnny then Susie would get the punishement. Even though Susie was the victim. Saying sorry, no matter how insincerely was a free ride out of trouble. Experiencing this I think taught me to be very suspicious of apologies. But that's just my screwed up childhood!

I have a difficult time making apologies, as well. How does one express regret, without making excuses or trying to abdicate responsibility? How do I communicate that my apology is genuine?
 

kenpo tiger

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There's a big difference in saying "I'm sorry that happened" and "I apologize for what happened". Being sorry is expressing regret for the occurrence but not an apology; apologizing is asking forgiveness for *one's* actions.

Therefore, simply saying sorry isn't being apologetic.
 

Adept

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I always felt the biggest hurdle to over-come when having to apologize, is to admit you are, or were, wrong.
 

7starmantis

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kenpo tiger said:
There's a big difference in saying "I'm sorry that happened" and "I apologize for what happened". Being sorry is expressing regret for the occurrence but not an apology; apologizing is asking forgiveness for *one's* actions.

Therefore, simply saying sorry isn't being apologetic.
I agree 100% !! It seems that is so hard for people to understand.
Very good post!!

7sm
 

Ceicei

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Adept said:
Sometimes. However, often saying sorry can be an apology as well.
I agree. It is not just the words themselves (both words mean basically the same), but in how the words are conveyed that show remorse. A remorseful sorry is a lot better than a terse, abrupt apology.

- Ceicei
 
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MA-Caver

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I've learned that if I'm going to say I'm sorry for something that I said/did then I first own up to what I'm sorry for, take responsibility for my actions, explaining my part and my intention behind those actions and then relate to how I see that it may have hurt them.
Just those two words sometimes, don't say enough. But sometimes it does.

I think also sometimes that to "prove" you're sorry is to never do it again. Time will tell.
 

Phoenix44

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Adept said:
I always felt the biggest hurdle to over-come when having to apologize, is to admit you are, or were, wrong.
BINGO! THAT'S why people don't apologize. They believe they're always right. This is an attitude that permeates our society from the top down. Have you heard ANYBODY currently in the public arena admit s/he is wrong about ANYTHING, EVER?

For my part, if I have the wisdom to realize I've been wrong, I apologize. Perfection is just too heavy a burden for me to bear.
 

kenpo tiger

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Phoenix44 said:
For my part, if I have the wisdom to realize I've been wrong, I apologize. Perfection is just too heavy a burden for me to bear.
Nicely put.

Postscript to your thought: it is a mature person who admits that he was wrong/made a mistake and to apologize.
 

Dr. Kenpo

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It's strange how School Districts, Corporations, and our own Govt can never admit wrong. No backbone, no common sense. If they only knew how much grief they could save themselves by doing the right thing.
 

hardheadjarhead

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kenpo tiger said:
There's a big difference in saying "I'm sorry that happened" and "I apologize for what happened". Being sorry is expressing regret for the occurrence but not an apology; apologizing is asking forgiveness for *one's* actions.

Therefore, simply saying sorry isn't being apologetic.


This is a good point. Often in the past when expressing regret for one's loss or misfortune, I've had the recipient come back with "Hey, it's not YOUR fault." It's really quite rude, in a way, as it minimizes the offering of condolences.

The last time that happened I corrected the person somewhat firmly. They were a little embarrassed, but I doubt they ever said that again.


Regards,


Steve
 

Tgace

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Phoenix44 said:
BINGO! THAT'S why people don't apologize. They believe they're always right. This is an attitude that permeates our society from the top down. Have you heard ANYBODY currently in the public arena admit s/he is wrong about ANYTHING, EVER?

For my part, if I have the wisdom to realize I've been wrong, I apologize. Perfection is just too heavy a burden for me to bear.
Probably because the public admission of fault typically results in a lawsuit....
 
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MA-Caver

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Yeah, well why don't we lay off the political crap for a change and get personal. Politicans will only apologize if they know (or think they know) it'll win them the next election. All they ever wanna do is just cover their hineys and da hell with average everyday you and me.

I'd like to look at the reasons people (us) apologize or not apologize. When we're sincere and when we're just blowing smoke up somebody's butt, or somewhere in between.
i.e. you're 15 minutes late meeting someone and the first thing you say is... oh hey "sorry I'm late" are you really sorry or just being polite?
Stuff like that.

We've got enough political stuff going on else where on this board as it is.
As martialist we should be as real as we can be this includes on the inside.

So, lets get real.
 

Floating Egg

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Apologies are grounded in guilt and shame rather than empathy. I think it's more important to recognize the other person's pain and try to connect with that rather than falling back on what I view as a violent use of language. When someone has experienced sincere empathy, they don't need or desire an apology because their needs have been met.
 

kenpo tiger

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MACaver said:
Yeah, well why don't we lay off the political crap for a change and get personal. Politicans will only apologize if they know (or think they know) it'll win them the next election. All they ever wanna do is just cover their hineys and da hell with average everyday you and me.

I'd like to look at the reasons people (us) apologize or not apologize. When we're sincere and when we're just blowing smoke up somebody's butt, or somewhere in between.
i.e. you're 15 minutes late meeting someone and the first thing you say is... oh hey "sorry I'm late" are you really sorry or just being polite?
Stuff like that.

We've got enough political stuff going on else where on this board as it is.
As martialist we should be as real as we can be this includes on the inside.

So, lets get real.
As to whether it's polite to say you're sorry for being late: maybe. Why maybe? It's socially acceptable. Most people I know who are chronically late always say they're sorry. Are they? Probably not. Way they are.

We - most of us - are brought up to be polite within the constraints of society. Manners do not equate with social status, however. Your point about politicians is well-taken. They feel that the 'rules' don't necessarily apply to them because they are 'different'.

Far as I'm concerned, if you say it, you should mean it.
 
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raedyn

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Tgace said:
Probably because the public admission of fault typically results in a lawsuit....
Funny, that's exactly the thought I had, Tom.
 
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raedyn

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MACaver said:
Politicans will only apologize if they know (or think they know) it'll win them the next election. All they ever wanna do is just cover their hineys and da hell with average everyday you and me.
kenpo tiger said:
Your point about politicians is well-taken. They feel that the 'rules' don't necessarily apply to them because they are 'different'.
I'm really surprised and disappointed at these comments from each of you. Very unfair generalizations - stereotypes. I think I know you each well enough (in this context) to safely say you wouldn't allow someone to say those things about say... people of a certain skin colour, but politicians are okay? It's still stereotyping and bashing.

Some politicans are involved in public life because they want to improve their country/city/whatever level of government they're at. They've made a choice to not be another person sitting around saying how "They" have all the power and "They" are trying to make it tough for the little guy. Instead, they got active and invovled and are trying to get a piece of that power to make life better for the little guy. Sure, politicians screwup. Sure, some of them are pricks. They are human, and while some of them are in it for the wrong reasons, some of them are in it for the right reasons.

And guess what? It's the "average everyday you and me" that put the power in the hands of these people even if you aren't politically active - by not bothering to make a choice, you are still making a choice: the choice to let someone decide for you. Even rotten politicians have to care (somewhat) how the "average everyday you and me" and feels towards them, because if they piss off enough of us, we can fire them. You might feel like the government - led by politicians - is the boss of you. But it's the only boss you can fire.

</thread gankage>
 

Gin-Gin

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I like the Elton John reference in the title of the thread. :)

kenpo tiger said:
There's a big difference in saying "I'm sorry that happened" and "I apologize for what happened". Being sorry is expressing regret for the occurrence but not an apology; apologizing is asking forgiveness for *one's* actions.
I agree. However, I also think that...
Ceicei said:
It is not just the words themselves but in how the words are conveyed that show remorse. A remorseful sorry is a lot better than a terse, abrupt apology.
:asian:
 

TigerWoman

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...And face to face is a must for serious and offensive behavior. A brief line on a page of paper is not "it" especially when forced by social mores. I also agree if there is no remorse and if the offender doesn't recognize his offense as a wrong and doesn't do anything to rectify it, is still a continuing offense. Nothing has changed. No "I'm sorry" with faked remorse, is going to cut it without giving--some form of restitution. I know some people who have no bones but to do whatever to whoever and spend 5 minutes if that, apologizing to wipe it off the books. Not! TW
 
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