Today’s premise: There’s no such thing as an apology. But first, let’s go shopping!
Who ever said that shopping for greeting cards can’t be fun?
Have you ever really thought about apologies? I mean like really hard? Like pausing Nirvana and putting down the smartphone and thinking? I tried it. And the only conclusion I could come up with is that there’s no such thing as an apology.
The Apology Process
- Establish boundaries: Acceptable limits of behavior are defined.
- Ignore boundaries: One party says “I want” and stomps the other party’s garden of delicate flowers.
- Inference: The wounded party sets off a scud missile in the face of the guilty party.
- Acknowledgement: The narcissistic walls of defense are penetrated and the guilty party says, “Huh? That bothered you?”
- Deflection: An autonomic knee-jerk attempt to transform the victim into the guilty party. “You shouldn’t have put those flowers there in the first place!”
- Discomfort: The guilty party realizes they don’t like being in trouble.
- Projection: The guilty party is able to see how they will personally be affected in some undesirable way. (Loss of freedom, status, income, prestige, etc.)
- Action: Some words are said in the assumption it will end the unpleasantness.
- Repeat process starting at Step 2.
Is an apology real? Let’s take a look.
Is the action being committed without hesitation? With no signs of remorse? Is it repeatedly done again and again? Is it being flaunted? Bragged about?
After the moment of discovery, what then? Are they still defiant? Do they show any sign of empathy or remorse?
Then, finally, come real and concrete consequences. “What? I have to pay? I’m going to lose my job? You’re breaking up with me? I’m going to jail? I’m being kicked out?”
If the so-called “apology” comes only after being stared down by stark and harsh consequences, what meaning can it possibly have? How can it be anything other than an expression of: “I don’t like what is happening. I’m being affected. I want it to stop. I’m willing to say words to that affect. I just want things to go back to the way they were before, you know, before I was going to be personally affected. That’s all I want. Please oh please oh please oh please.”
I would assume that any apology that comes after getting caught and while facing consequences is absolutely meaningless. By definition. It’s like pointing a loaded gun at my head and forcing me to say, “I think Sean Hannity is a good person.” Of course I’m going to say it but that doesn’t magically make it true. The loaded gun is temporarily overriding the normal laws of physics. So, in that situation, what possible meaning can my words possibly have?
If you are the victim of an apology, what should you do? Experts say you should look for, at a minimum, these three signs:
- Statement of Regret
- Acceptance of Responsibility
- Willingness to Remedy
Hey, look. Three R’s. Why is the Tertiary R paradigm so prevalent in our culture? That’s a topic for another day.
Let’s apply a common apology to these simple standards.
Hmm. Not too good. Only one of those criteria is kinda sorta met. Therefore, anyone who tries saying that to me is going to get kicked in the nards.
What do you think? Can apologies ever be real? Can someone deep in hot water truly have the capacity to apologize for real reasons other than saving their own bacon?
Sorry, but I remain doubtful.