The Value Of The Apology

There is not a day that passes without a politician apologizing or, more profusely, apologizing to his adversaries for their own actions or those of others, moody clients who demand attention and demand compensation for having felt mistreated, patients hurt by the actions of health personnel who He cares for him, athletes who publicly show their regret for their extramarital affairs or employees protesting the lack of delicacy of their employers. Some, on the one hand, are on the hunt for compensation, in the form, at least, of apology, for the damage suffered and others, go through, or avoid it, through the drink of asking for forgiveness in the face of their own flagrant mistake.

According to Aaron Lazare, author of On Apology, a former president of the University of Massachusetts and one of the greatest references in the study of apology and the processes of repentance and forgiveness, what makes an apology work is the exchange of shame and power. between offender and offended. Through apology, one takes the shame of the offense and directs it to himself. By acknowledging the shame of the offender, the offended takes the power to forgive. According to Lazare, an apology implies an exchange and is, in itself, a negotiation process where the agreement must leave both parties emotionally satisfied.

But make no mistake, it is not a simple negotiation. Despite the undeniable benefits of an apology, we cannot say that, in general terms, we are experts in the field and have the humility and courage to accept when we are wrong, recognize when we cause harm and express, sincerely, our regret.

And yet the apology has the power to make our relationships, whether personal or professional, cement, restore, recover, and grow even stronger. A sincere apology accepted by the other party is the most palpable display of civilized and profound interaction between human beings.

In the words of Beverly Engel, author of The Power of Apology, the benefits of an apology are clear to both whoever offers it and who receives it. On the one hand, whoever receives the apology feels emotionally healed when recognized by the offender, stops perceiving him as a threat, turns him away from anger and prevents him from being trapped by the past. The apology opens the door to forgiveness allowing you to feel empathy for the offender. On the other hand, through apology and taking responsibility for our actions we help ourselves to avoid self-reproach, with the consequent impact on self-esteem. Knowing that we have hurt someone can distance us, but once we have apologized we feel freer and closer. Since the apology makes us feel humble, when not humiliated, it can also act as a deterrent, reminding us not to repeat the act in the future.

Returning to Lazare, there is no single reason to apologize. It can be done with the objective of saving or restoring a relationship, for a simple reason of empathy, to verify the damage caused, to avoid further punishment or to alleviate a sense of guilt. Or also due to pressure from the media, the main daily motive for politicians, companies and other actors with permanent public exposure.

Apologizing is not usually easy. It is, in a great number of occasions, a difficult and expensive exercise. It involves facing feelings of shame, guilt, fear and you run the risk of being vulnerable. Apology tends to be seen as a sign of weak character, but in fact it requires great strength. And it is convenient to learn how to get there because, although it is not a guarantee of success, it is impossible to live in today’s world without this ability. A skill that requires a process to be really effective and that should not ignore the following steps:

1. Acknowledge the offense
2. Describe the damage caused
3. Accept responsibility
4. Establish how the damage will be repaired

For example, surely we have all observed or suffered some situation where, driven by tension, fatigue or personality, the boss “hugs” a subordinate in the presence of his colleagues. Hopefully, after minutes, hours or days, the same subordinate receives the corresponding apology in terms similar to “I realize, and I’m sorry, that my words have caused a feeling of frustration in you, I should have measured the verbal excess and not having done it in the presence of your colleagues. I’ll try never to do it again. “

I wish it were always like this.

An apology can also be a double-edged sword when it sounds fake, shows no real regret, or is self-centered. Also when it is used too much, when there is no relationship between the size of the offense and the apology, or when it comes too early or too late.

Self-centeredness is also a factor in missed or avoided apologies. The egoist is incapable of appreciating the suffering of another person; their regret is limited to ceasing to be appreciated by the offended person but not for the damage caused. The type of apology he usually uses takes the form of “I’m sorry you got mad at me” rather than “I’m sorry I hurt you. The offender is simply aware but does not feel guilty, embarrassed, or empathetic.

And it is that a good apology also has to make you suffer, as studied by Lazare. If there is no genuine repentance, it will not be taken as sincere. 

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