Saturday, July 14, 2012

On Apologies and Non-apologies

How often have you actually received an apology from a person in a position of leadership?  It always seemed to me that training in administration included a course called Apology 101.  The curriculum is one word long.  "Don't"

In my experience the apology from leadership is rare and when it does occur it is usually negated or modified in such a way as make it less than an apology, if not meaningless or even demeaning.

There are at least two types of non-apologies:

"I am sorry that what I said hurt you," or "I am sorry that what you thought I said hurt you."  At least the first assumes that hurt occurred although it is not retraction.  The later can be translated as "you stupid idiot, how could you not understand what I said?  It couldn't possibly be my miscommunication.  If you're hurt it's your own damn fault."

"I am sorry about that.  I really should have not done that."  Now there's an apology.  Unfortunately it is often followed up by a tit-for-tat.  "I have been meaning to tell you that I was hurt by ...."  This approach is one that initially seems to be a real apology, but ends up canceling it's effectiveness with a reference to the score card of mistakes.

"Fair Fighting" is something I remember about effective communications.  When one issue is being discussed or argued, that should be the only item on the table.  No "But last month you said ...." when the latter issue has nothing the actions being discussed.  This is difficult.  It requires open communications so that when something happens in which either party feels injured it is dealt with immediately.  Please note that I am not saying that I practice this anymore than anyone else.  However my confession is, I do know better.

The apology that really makes a difference is "I am sorry. I made a mistake." and optionally "Please forgive me."

That's the kind of apology that invites, "You are forgiven.  Let's move on."

I know that Jesus calls us to forgive 70 times 7 times (Matt: 8:22).   Internally I can forgive a slight and just move on but it's a lot easier and moves us toward reconciliation when there is an apology.   It's a bit awkward to walk up to someone who has hut you deeply and say "I forgive you," without context.  But maybe that is what we are called to do.

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