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Perform some reform, please

Peter Hartlaub wrote a great article for the San Franscico Chronicle titled, “Apologists Leave Much To Be Desired“, in which he and Miss Manners despair of the plethora of feeble celebrity apologies this past year. 

“The problem is that there have been so many public apologies, that they’ve worn out the form,” Martin said. “I had noticed a while ago that people were doing that non-apology ‘I’m sorry if you took it wrong’ sort of thing. But now they’ve worn out ‘I take full responsibility,’ too, because it no longer means that.”

Martin further explained that the apology has three ingredients: “remorse and shame, plus the vow to make things up and reform.”  She explained that apologizers have become experts at completing the first two ingredients, but have no follow-through.

I’ve never understood how anyone thinks they can get away with a non-apology apology.  Even if you’ve never heard it called a “non-apology apology”, hearing one leaves a sour taste in your mouth even if you can’t quite put a specific finger on why.  Peter Hartlaub sums it up well, “And almost every one has left me angrier at the offending party than before he or she said ‘I’m sorry’.”

Expressing remorse and vowing to change but not actually following through with the committment to change falls into a category I call “Brave New World Speeches”.  The apologist makes passionate declarations that a Brave New World of personal change will happen but nothing comes of it.  With each fresh transgression comes the same old Brave New World speech and then nothing.  Apologies without reform are vaccuous.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Scritzy September 12, 2007, 2:59 pm

    I could not agree more. Most public “apologies” these days sound more like, “I’m sorry I got caught.” A note to celebrities: If you’re truly sorry regarding your transgressions, then go to rehab/detox/therapy etc. but stay there long enough to do some good, not just long enough to get the publicity.

  • Pugsley March 16, 2010, 11:44 am

    I had an emotionally abusive boyfriend in high school and he was the master of the non-apology-he always started out with “I’m sorry that you think that I….” did or said something hurtful. Notice how it was all on me for my mis-perception. I was so young and naive that all I heard was “I’m sorry”; thank GOD I didn’t marry him!

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