Do You Make Defective Apologies
Ange Fonce & Dalija Vujec

Civilization depends on the apology. 

Relationships can heal and grow stronger with a heartfelt apology.

When humans interact and something goes wrong, the apology builds a bridge that enables us to move forward.

Yet apologies are failing more often. 

Two reasons: First, organizations are not humans, and organizations often seek to avoid or industrialize the human work that civilization needs. 

And secondly, the apology is a complex organism, one with many structures and purposes, and our culture models (or fails to model) how it is supposed to be done.

Consider that we can say... “I am sorry” at a funeral even if we did not murder the deceased, and we also say, “I am sorry” when we bump into someone in a crowded train station and “I am sorry” when we get caught shoplifting and we can say "I am sorry" for cheating in our relationship. Four different situations, with fundamentally different amounts of complicity, blame, or guilt.

When someone accidentally bumps into us, we do not expect compensation or punishment, yet we very much want to be acknowledged. On the other hand, acknowledgment is insufficient when someone sought to profit from our pain and betrayed our trust.

We can start by asking...

 “What is this apology for?” 

What does the person need from us?

To be seen


Punishment for the transgressor

Stopping the damage

The first category is the one that most demands humanity, and it is also the most common. 

A form letter from a company does not make us feel seen. Neither does an automated text from an airline when a plane is late. One reason that malpractice victims sue is that surgeons sometimes have trouble with a genuine apology. 

This non-human behavior is getting worse and is being celebrated in parts of our culture (mistaking it for strength), which leads to a demand for the other three.

Compensation is the ancient tradition of seeking to make a victim whole. Unless the injury is solely financial, financial compensation is insufficient and an easy get out to avoid the human pain, yet that does not mean we have not tried to build systems that use the money to atone for ills and avoid responsibility.

Punishment is different from compensation. Punishment allows the victim to feel seen because he or she is now aware that the transgressor feels some pain as well. (Punishment is unsatisfying to the victim if he or she is unaware of it). Punishment is economically suspect, though, because other than the second-order feeling of being seen, the punishment does not directly help the person who was injured. It also can spiral forward, leading to even more damage.

And finally, stopping the damage, which often co-exists with the other three needs. This is the affirmative act of making sure it does not happen again. This is correcting the behavior so that the next person who deals with the system or person will not experience the same error. This is fixing the floor so the next person will not trip and fall. This is the organization and relationship investing time and energy to improve its systems.

Compounding these different sorts of apologies is the very idea of winning. 

Victims have been sold that it is not enough that your compensation is merely helpful, and it has to be the most. That you won the biggest judgment in history. That the transgressor is not simply going to jail and is going to jail forever, far away, in solitary confinement. 

We have all ended up in a place where one of the ways to feel seen is to also feel like you came in the first place compared to others.

There is an old cartoon–an irate customer is standing at the complaints desk of a store, clearly not mollified by the clerk. She then asks, exasperated, “well, what if we shut down the store, burn it to the ground and run the owner out of town... will that be enough?”

The challenge that organizations and most people have is that they have not been educated and trained, rewarded, or permitted their frontline employees or as individuals to exert emotional labor to create a human connection when it is most needed.

The traveler goes straight from, “my flight is overbooked,” to “I want a million frequent flyer miles and a first-class ticket on the next flight.”

The patient goes from, “the scar on my leg is not healing,” to “I am going to sue you.”

Your partner goes from "you don't get me" to "I want a divorce, I am leaving."

And the most common unseen situation is the customer or partner who walks away, forever, because you have a broken system and you are not hearing about how to fix it.

Organizations and partners that refuse to see the pain they are causing because they are afraid of being held responsible have missed the point.

You are already being held responsible. 

The question is what to do about it? You can stonewall, bureaucratize, delay and deny, and hope that somehow it will work itself out... how often does that happen and you feel seen and that the other got you?

The alternative is to choose to contribute to connection by actually apologizing. 

Apologizing not to make the person go away, because they have feelings, and you can do something for them. 

Apologizing with time and direct contact, and following it up by actually changing the defective communication systems that caused the problem.

“Yikes, I am sorry you missed your flight–I wish that had not happened. The next flight is in an hour, but that is probably going to ruin your entire trip. Are you headed on vacation?”

“You are right, you booked a front-facing seat, and you got one that is facing backward–and I hear you about getting motion sickness, my sister does too... I know that we have been having trouble with our systems, and I have the hotline number of the head of ops–I am going to call and let them know.”

“Yeah, I should not have written that about you. I was in a bad mood when I wrote it. I apologize. And, to set the record straight, I am going to delete what I wrote and write a new one, just as loud, and this time telling people about how much you care.”

Consider that an effective apology has a few elements to it:

1. You know what sort of apology you are offering.

2. You share your story with the aggrieved as well as hearing their story, thus becoming human, and then taking the time to help them feel seen by you.

3. You engage with the person who was harmed and find out, beyond being seen, what would help them move forward, noting that it is impossible to make complete amends.

[It is worth noting that these are not the same steps you would take if you are simply hoping the person will shut up and go away, without you seeing them. That is not going to happen, and acting as if it will, will only make your problem worse.]

Empathy leads to Connection which leads to Trust.

And if you want to work with me (Ange) and my partner (Dalija) to help you remove blocks that are holding you back from getting what you want in the areas in health, wealth, love, relationships, and communication...

Contact us by CLICKING HERE

Have you any thoughts or comments you would like to share with me on what I have written?

Please comment below.

Thank you and may you enjoy a Loving, Prosperous, and Dynamic day!

Yours Sincerely

Coach Ange

Qualified in Person-Centered Counselling, Personal Development, Accountability, Assessment, Strategy Coaching, and Psyco Sex Therapy and training in Advance Relationship Coaching.

Coach Dalija

Qualified in Accountability, Assessment, Strategy Coaching, and training in Advanced Relationship Coaching and completing her ICF accreditation.

Ange and Dalia are Dynamic Personal Development Coach's who work with those men and women who want to personally and powerfully develop their confidence, communication, relationships, sexing, health, and wealth!

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