Monday, 3 May 2021

How to handle an apology

Toby Morris does a great line in cartoons. I was particularly taken this year by a re-run of his twelve step piece of advice on how to handle an apology, which went like this (2017):

  1. Pre-offence insurance: this is where you say "I don't mean to hurt anyone's feelings, but..." before dropping the thing that actually will hurt a lot of people. As Toby says, "It's illegal for anyone to be upset if you have taken this step". Excellent start.
  2. Do whatever you want. This is where some ructions might start. Maybe.
  3. "Deepest regrets": Here we express our regrets. We are regretful about something that we don't really quite get specific about.
  4. "Sorry if...": Now we say we are sorry. Sincerely. But we don't say we are sorry about anything: we say we are "Sorry if anyone was upset by my actions". This means there may not have been any actions to be sorry about, and throws doubt on whether there was even an action at all. NB: this does not mean that we need to changing our actions: this shifts the responsibility onto the complainer.
  5. "Sorry you...": even better, now we say "I am sorry that other people have been hurt by what happened". This is good. Now we are really blaming the other people for taking offense, and pushing the attention of us. 
  6. Intention defence: now we say "It was never my intention to hurt anyone", which makes us a potential victim. We are bewildered at what has happened, and we didn't mean it. Aww...
  7. The friend defence: now we can claim kinship with the complainer. "I have many friends who have [insert action here]. I'm very sympathetic to [insert action here]". 
  8. Shift the blame: we are now ready to stick it to the complainer. "Woah: people are so sensitive these days. You can't [insert action here] without upsetting anybody!". 
  9. Scream 'Pile on': tell the media/family/whoever that this is now a Pile On, showing that it is you who is the victim, not the complainer
  10. Rally the Troops: get your whanau to support you and say what a nice person you are, countering what the complainer said. Get someone with standing to claim that this is a 'witch hunt'.
  11. Be the Victim: make statements such as "It is a trying time facing these hurtful accusations. These allegations are harming my children, so I would like to request privacy at this difficult time". If you have no children, borrow some. Or some disabled dogs. Or something people go "aww" over.
  12. Perfect, you may leave: sure in the knowledge that the complainer is now getting theirs.
Watch it in action here:


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