Sorry is the hardest word…

28 Jan 2020
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… or is it just lip service?

When we hear yet another celebrity, politician or public figure saying sorry, we might be forgiven for feeling cynical.  In recent news with the collapse of Carillion, should we be expecting the executives and directors to make a public statement any day now, apologising for the mess they have left (once they have been bullied out of hiding)? But even if it does happen will it mean much if anything at all, especially given none came forward to return their bonuses voluntarily whilst it’s being reported that many small suppliers and employees face losing their jobs?

In the public arena, it seems that we only ever hear it when they’ve been found out and are pushed into a corner – look at a number of examples: Youtuber Logan Paul over his filming of an apparent suicide in Japan, Priti Patel over her undisclosed Israeli meetings whilst ‘on holiday’, a number of Hollywood heavyweights over the recent sex scandals, the list goes on…
So perhaps the public has a right to feel weary, it’s become our modern form of public humiliation with the masses gathering to throw metaphorical rotten tomatoes as the people who have been caught out are publically chained to the stocks.
In its purest form saying sorry should be an act of contrition, a realisation that something you have said or done has affected someone else adversely and you are therefore motivated by genuine feelings of remorse.  And by saying sorry early we can diffuse a situation – it takes the wind out of an accuser’s sails if you show genuine admittance and repentance for a mistake.  Many people would understand the closure a good apology brings to a situation, it allows a line to be drawn under the event and to move on.
However this rarely appears to be the motivating factor in public apologies.  And a bad apology, one without emotion (except the self-interest of the apologiser) or sentiment does nothing to alleviate the situation or can even make things worse.
So perhaps we could be forgiven for feeling a sense of ‘apology weariness’ – our psychological make up is informed by our interactions with our environment so it is ever-changing as we receive new information, and if we are routinely subjected to the same old, same old we will learn to ignore inputs that obviously have shallow intent.
And it is perhaps safe to say that the public apology has lost it’s shine.

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