(Friday’s Populist Capitalist Blog Post)
Sorry seems to be the hardest word for some people to say and even harder to really mean. The resulting trickle of bogus mea culpas coming out of Wall Street is a good example. Evidently the pseudo alpha males who inhabit the corner offices of America’s Fortune 500 have a problem with remorse; evidently to say you’re sorry is to appear weak. Real alpha entrepreneurs risk their own money. Pseudo alphas risk their shareholders’ money: widows’, orphans’, and retirees’ savings cheerfully included.
It is not an apology if it is immediately followed by an explanation, justification, or rationale as to why it really wasn’t their fault, job, or responsibility.
It is not an apology if it is immediately followed by an attempt to explain why the outcome was not as bad as it feels. This is a common tactic of perpetrators trying to shift blame to the sufferers: “Oh, you are overreacting, things will be okay before long.” The meta message is that the wounded are somehow being wimps.
“I want to apologize” by itself is not an apology any more than “I want to lose weight” equals losing weight.
Most critically, it is not an apology if it is not followed by a long-term behavior change that meaningfully insures that the undesired outcome is unlikely to be repeated.
A true apology is an acknowledgment of responsibility AND an undertaking of all within one’s power to remedy the problem. An apology without a sincere effort to right the wrong lacks true regret, thus is no apology at all but rather almost an insult. Words without deeds are the merest sophistry.
“You cannot talk yourself out of what you behaved yourself into.” — Folk wisdom
“Never ruin an apology with an excuse.” — Kimberly Johnson
“True remorse is never just a regret over consequence; it is a regret over motive.” — Mignon McLaughlin, “The Neurotic’s Notebook,” 1960