Free Advice: How to Say You’re Sorry

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Saying you’re sorry with grace can be hard under the best of circumstances. Saying it in public, whether in the glare of news cameras or simply in the presence of aggrieved parties, can be near-impossible.

Trust me; I’ve been through these situations a lot in my professional life. Please let me help you say you’re sorry so you and those nearest you can all get on with your lives.

Anthony Weiner, like Tiger Woods and so many more before him, stood in front of hot camera lights to apologize for publicly-disclosed bad behavior. Weiner, unlike Woods, had the added heat of a righteously (and rightly) pissed off wife standing right next to him the whole time, except for those unbearably excruciating moments when she herself took the microphone.

Woods, when he took his turn at on-camera apology was really more bizarre than cringe-worthy. Looking like an East German prisoner, not the super-winner mega-millionaire sports entertainer we’d come to know, Woods recited his pro formas from a thoroughly vetted script in an uncharacteristically unemotional monotone.

Public apologies for bad personal behavior are always painful, humiliating for all concerned, embarrassing, risky. Few people in that kind of environment do well, so these events rarely go well. No one leaves satisfied.

For next time (because there will be next times), here is the outline of how to apologize properly:

  1. I did this thing.
  2. I am responsible for its effects.
  3. I know I hurt people and I am sorry.
  4. I won’t do it again.
  5. Please let me make it better, or at least mitigate the harm I’ve caused.

Done. More is just self-indulgent groveling. Anything less is incomplete.

Following these steps has less to do with business gain or political success, which is why, I suppose, public figures rarely follow them, than it does becoming whole again as a human being.

To the extent these steps aren’t followed in practice, it is likely there are uncertainties, ambivalence, continuing fear or, perhaps as likely, the apologizing public figures are just following the advice of legal counsel instead of the wiser counsel of their own human hearts.

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Reality Check

Athens is ablaze.

Many Greeks are consumed with anger over the terms necessary to avail themselves of the financial bailout offered by the deities of the European community and have taken to the streets in protest. The changes, protesters claim,  amount to a significant and unacceptable change in Greek life, in Greek society, in what it means at its core to be Greek.

This is a precarious moment. Failure of the Greek government to deliver on these terms (and get the bailout funds) would result in serious consequences for Greece, and for the rest of Europe. Together with other developments, it may signal the end of European financial union – no more single currency, open trading relationships, free flow of people across historic national boundaries.

Care to watch a complete meltdown of the European community economy? Care to consider for just a moment what that might mean to the rest of the world? War? Complete world economic collapse?

The scale of this issue is, I realize, hard to fathom, even, perhaps, harder to take. So, I understand my fellow Americans wanting ready distraction – professional golf, the “tragic” death of a pop music princess, Oscars, baseball’s spring training, March Madness, etc.

All well and good; I enjoy diversions too. But our media is splashed with every angle possible on Whitney Houston, God rest her soul, and not a sentence for events that could shape our world for the rest of our lifetimes.

Time for a good strong dose of reality.