Apology is Good for Everyone Says Psychotherpist.

Dr. Michael J. Hurd, a “psychotherapist, life coach and author” has published some thoughts on the psychological benefits of apologies for both the apologizer and the apologizee. He makes some interesting points, linking apology to a sense of justice:

Children, like adults, need to operate on a sense of justice. “Justice”
means sticking to, and honoring, the facts. “Was I wrong in what I said
or did? Do the facts prove I’m wrong? If so, I should acknowledge it.”
An apology is a form of acknowledgment. In essence, when you
apologize, you’re saying: “I know what I did was wrong, and I regret
it.”

The goal isn’t to be–or not be–sorry. The goal is to acknowledge the truth and apologize only for what you see as your error. (“Treat yourself to an apology” delmarvanow.com)

He makes other good points, some noted before at Apology Index, about the importance of sincerity, the need to back the words of an apology with action, and the fact that the a true apology benefits the apologizer most of all. Also, an apology “doesn’t necessarily have to aim for (or result in) forgiveness.”

Worth a read by any student of apology. Check it out.

The Flip Side of Apology

Of interest, a couple of recent apology-related articles from the L.A. Times that deal with the other side of apologies–forgiveness.

First, we have “You’re not sorry? That’s OK.” The gist of it is, forgiveness is good for you:

A growing corps of researchers thinks they have it. Forgiveness — a
virtue embraced by almost every religious tradition as a balm for the
soul — may be medicine for the body, they suggest. In less than a
decade, those preaching and studying forgiveness have amassed an
impressive slate of findings on its possible health benefits.




They have shown that “forgiveness interventions” — often just a couple
of short sessions in which the wounded are guided toward positive
feelings for an offender — can improve cardiovascular function,
diminish chronic pain, relieve depression and boost quality of life
among the very ill.

Though, of course, it is not quite that simple if you read the whole article.

A companion article, Humans may be hard-wired to have a soft spot, discusses research into a possible evolutionary basis for the capacity and desire to forgive:


Forgiveness of others long predates organized religion as a desirable practice.




Michael McCullough, a psychologist at University of Miami and author of
a forthcoming book on the subject, surmises that higher primates and
early humans who were more forgiving were more likely to maintain the
family and social relations that would help them fend off predators,
secure food and go on to reproduce, thereby passing a tendency to
forgive on to future generations
.

Both interesting reads.

APOLOGY ADVICE: Australian article on significance of public apologies

The Sydney Morning Herald online has an article examining the significance of public apologies, mainly from businesses and politicians:

The calculated cost of an apology

Sorry, as Elton John reminded us, seems to be the hardest word.
It’s certainly the trickiest in politics and business.


But what’s more interesting is the noise the S-word has created.
It speaks volumes about how much accountability has changed. There
would have been a time when a simple apology, or the refusal to
give one, would not have blown up into an election issue.

 It’s a different story in an era in which former British
prime minister Tony Blair apologised to Ireland for the 19th
century potato famine and when the Catholic Church, which has
plenty to apologise for, has offered apologies all round to the
Jews, the Gypsies, victims of sexual abuse, Galileo and the
citizens of Constantinople (now Istanbul) for its sacking 800 years
ago by the knights of the Fourth Crusade.

There are two reasons for the change. First is the way news
gathering, the internet and globalisation have changed the flow of
information. Put simply, news good or bad travels a lot faster and
further. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

Secondly, according to Aaron Lazare, professor of psychiatry at
the University of Massachusetts medical school, there is our
increased interdependence and fragile connectedness in today’s
global village. The increased layers and connections mean that more
people are bumping into each other. In such a crowded space, it
only heightens expectations for apologies.

The article makes some points we have made at Apology Index:

… For corporations, the apology itself is less about
contrition than it is about crisis and reputation management….

… In politics and business, the calculated apology is about the
commodification of the mea culpa….


… Done too little or too late, or making it too
obviously tactical, can be disastrous and destructive….

And offers some advice:

Public relations and strategy experts cite 10 questions CEOs
need to ask before embarking on the apology route:

1. Was the offence serious?
2. Should the CEO assume responsibility?

3. Is the cost of saying something likely to be lower than the cost
of saying nothing?

4. What function would the apology serve?
5.Who benefits?
6. Why would an apology matter (for strategic reasons, moral
reasons)?

7. What happens when the apology is made and would it placate the
injured parties and hasten resolution?

8.Will an apology create legal problems?
9. If you don’t apologise, will the problem fade?
10. Will a refusal to apologise make it worse?

As examples, it references several apologies we have covered, including recent apologies from Apple and Mattel.

Worth a read.

The Author’s Tale, or An English Apology

GalleyCat at MediaBistro.com is a blog that covers the world of (primarily) book publishing. Having an interest in such matters, I am a regular GalleyCat reader. Today GalleyCat points us toward a lesson in apology etiquette.

The Man Booker Prize is one of those prestigious literary awards that honors the kind of book I never read. It purports to promote “the finest in fiction by rewarding the very best book of the year.” Opinions can obviously vary on that point. For instance, I have read exactly none of the past Booker Prize winners. Nor any of this year’s nominees.

These are Oprah book club books. Books that get made into tedious three hour indy films. I prefer popular literature, the classics and non-fiction. But among authors who write books that I will never read, winning the Booker Prize is a Big Deal. Even making the shortlist is probably a faint-inducing thrill.

So it was for A.N. Wilson, author of WINNIE AND WOLF. (“the story of the extraordinary relationship between Winifred Wagner and
Adolf Hitler that took place during the years 1925-40, as seen through
the eyes of the secretary at the Wagner house in Bayreuth.”
Zzzzzz … did I doze off?)

No, actually, I’m sure it is a fine book and much better written than Apology Index. Just look at this review: “This novel should carry a warning: its appeal will be greatest for
fans either of Wagner and European history, or of politics and
philosophy” —
Sunday Times.

That is one hot demographic. Obviously, authors of books like this aren’t in it for the money. Which makes the rewards of winning the Booker Prize all the more sweet. Mr. Wilson’s book made the so-called longlist of 13 titles. Actually, why don’t I let Wilson himself tell you what happened, as he wrote it up in the Telegraph:

The Man Booker shortlist has been announced and, as
always, my name wasn’t on it.

You and me both, brother.

My novel Winnie and Wolf had been on the
longlist, so the poor publishers were patiently waiting beside the
telephone on Thursday afternoon, hoping for the best.

Something
told me that they were waiting in vain, but of course you never know.

I like this guy already. Not putting on airs like other authors of books I never read. Modest chap. Proper head on his shoulders. Well grounded, he is.


At shortly before four o’clock they rang me in tremendous excitement.
It sounded as if one of the nice women in the office had either brought
along a puppy to join in the celebrations or was herself having
hysterics. “You’re through! You’re on the list!” I was told.

It
transpired that Colman Getty, the PR firm that manages the Man Booker
prize, had rung up my publisher, Hutchinson, to tell them the glad, and
surprising, news that I was on the list.

I told you this guy could write! It’s like we’re right there in the publisher’s office ourselves, waiting by the phone. Oh, the delicious anticipation! The utter carefree joy at receiving the happy news!

In our little street in north London, we rushed out to tell the
neighbours, some of whom broke out in spontaneous, and truly touching,
dances of joy. Others climbed lampposts to hang out the bunting, which
had not been used since the Jubilee Party. I sat down a little stunned
and began to ring up those who had been kind enough to ask me to tell them if I were lucky.

And then …

But in the interval of one of these calls the telephone rang once more.
“It was a mistake. Colman Getty have just rung to say that you aren’t
on the list after all.”

Ohhhh, the disappointment! The deflation of our rapture!

And then … the apology.

About an hour later, a motorbike came to the front door with a letter.

You’ve just got to love the British. Apology hand-delivered by motorbike.

“Dear
Andrew, I’ve just got back from the Man Booker press conference to hear
about the really unfortunate mistake Lois, my assistant, has made in
telling Random House that Winnie and Wolf has been shortlisted for the
prize. I am so, so sorry that this has happened… It was a genuine
mistake, and we are all deeply upset by it.” It was signed by someone
called Dotty.

Now here Mr. Wilson makes a telling point. I must agree with him when he writes:

How truly shaming of Dotty to blame Lois for the
“genuine” mistake. Dotty, described in the letter as “Chief Executive”,
should have apologised collectively rather than naming the unfortunate
Lois who, far from being Dotty’s “assistant” is actually the
unfortunate person who has full responsibility for administering the
dire Man Booker circus.

Quite so! I could not put it better myself. Seriously, I couldn’t and I
shan’t even try. Dotty, whomever she might be is indeed quite dotty.
Throwing poor Lois under the bus like that.

Imagine doing Lois’s job.
With chief executives shrieking at you down the mobile telephone, and
many an “event” to organise, you would never have time to read much.
Surely, if one were running the publicity for the Man Booker, one
author is much like another. A N Wilson. A C Grayling. A L Kennedy. A S
Byatt, Waddever.

So talented, yet so humble, our Andrew Wilson. No prima donna he, raging up and down. He could say he was humiliated and demand that the thoughtless incompetent twit responsible for this outrage be fired at once! But A. N. Wilson is not a rap star, model or professional athlete. He is an author — and an English author at that!

And, apparently, a romantic …

But then sanity returned and I realised that poor
Lois had simply made a mistake, as we all do from time to time. As the
day wore on, I found myself thinking about her, and composing
Betjemanic poems about her in my head. Lois, my dream girl, tapped into
her BlackBerry, Lois the tomboy with hazel-green eyes, “Is that A N. Or
A L, Or Another? Lois is here with a lovely surprise.”

It
was lousy of Dotty to blame Lois. The Man Booker prize isn’t
everything. But who knows whether the story won’t have a romantic
ending. Perhaps Lois and I will laugh about it all one evening as we
sip our Sea Breezes in some secluded little Soho bar and muse upon the
strange, but in a way rather hilarious, circumstances that brought us
together?

I think I’m going to cry. And I think that if Mr. Wilson is this much of a gentleman and can tell this good of a story in a newspaper editorial (whilst also meting out a well-deserved, yet understated evisceration to “Dotty”), I really should read his book. After all, it’s not on the Booker Prize shortlist, so my perfect record of having read none of the Booker winners will remain intact.

Winnie and Wolf, by A.N. Wilson. Check it out!

Apology Advice for CEOs

Smart Money interviews Michael Robinson, senior vice president at Levick Strategic Communications, a crisis-management firm in Washington, D.C., regarding corporate apologies, specifically the response of Whole Foods to the revelation that their CEO John Mackey got a little carried away on the anonymous message boards.

Robinson was previously the director of policy and public affairs at the SEC. Not surprisingly, he stresses the importance of transparency in corporate communications. He also points out that while Mackey issued the concise apology we examined, Whole Foods as a company has not apologized for the actions of its CEO.

An interesting distinction. “Whole Foods” didn’t do anything wrong here, while the company’s CEO did. But his actions obviously reflect poorly on the company. Is an apology from the company also necessary to placate public disappointment and/or restore trust? How many different individuals and entities need to apologize for one incident? How many times? And to whom? Robinson has some good advice. An excerpt:

I think an apology is important. You have to demonstrate some level of
contrition. I think you also have to say that you’re making sure
nothing else is going on. If there are others in the company who knew
this was going on, we need to know that. The worst thing you can do is
have what we call death of a thousand cuts. You have a story today, and
the next day another story, and the next day something else…. There
are some people or organizations that are always cited with an
adjective in front of it: “Beleaguered CEO Carly Fiorina;” “Troubled
pop princess Britney Spears.” Once you acquire that first adjective,
it’s hard climb out of the cellar. (Smart Money)

Go read it all. Take notes. This will be on the final.

Extra credit: Levick has a blog called “Stop the Presses” with more discussion of the Whole Foods kerfluffle and other corporate communications dilemmas.

Some Thoughts on Apologies via Seth Godin

Doing a quick browse around the ubiquitous internets, I found this February post on apologies from the blog of “bestselling author, entrepreneur and agent of change” Seth Godin. The guy is a marketing and communications genius and if you are interested in those topics, read his books.

Here, Seth shares some thoughts from his correspondent, blogger Yehuda, who ranks the quality of apologies on a scale of 1 to 10. This is in a business context, with 1 being a thumb in the customer’s eye and 10 being a complete apology.

Good insights to keep in mind as we review apologies here and eventually develop some kind of rating or ranking system.