First, we had Bill Clinton, refusing to apologize for the affair that eventually became public. But now everyone seems to be apologizing-no matter how small the offense and no matter how sincere it is. A search of BizCom in the News for "apologize" reveals a whopping 96 stories over 3-1/2 years.
The author of an article in Dealbook, "Calling for an Apology Cease-Fire," complains of "knee-jerk" apologies instead of real apologies: "Saying you're sorry should be a way to get into the difficult process of grappling with authentic change." Current examples of Lance Armstrong and Anthony Weiner fall far short.
The article points to another recent apologizer, Chris Christie, who apologized for his administration's role in a retaliatory bridge lane closure 30 times in a press conference. Instead, the author encourages authentic apologies that meet these criteria:
- They must be painful. If an apology doesn't create vulnerability and isn't therapeutically painful, it's not an apology at all.
- They must be authentic and not an excuse. An apology can't have ulterior motives or be a means to an end.
- They must probe deep into the personal or organizational values that permitted the offense. Apologizers need to conduct a "moral audit" by looking themselves in the mirror and asking, "How did I get here and how did I drift from the person I aspire to be?"
- They must encourage feedback from the aggrieved. This includes truly opening up to input and two-way conversation during and after an apology, and embracing ideas as to how to improve.
- They must turn regret into a real change in behavior. The new behaviors they elicit must be continuing, reinforced by a sustained investment in avoiding the same mistakes in the future.
Whether Chris Christie's apology meets these criteria remains to be seen.
- What would convince you that Christie's apology is authentic according to the author's criteria?
- In what ways did Lance Armstrong's and Anthony Weiner's apologies fall short?
- What, if anything, would you add to the criteria list?