Tiger Woods, Jesse James, Steve Jobs, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Doesn’t it seem like this year is the Year of the Big Apology?
Every time I turn around someone is holding a press conference, looking deflated, dejected, and apologizing to a room full of cameras, microphones, and all of America. Before they are even done apologizing, someone else is being accused of a misdeed or an embarrassing mistake and you can count on the fact that they will soon be telling us how truly sorry they are, too.
My first thought about this onslaught of apologies is: why don’t you just NOT make the mistake in the first place? Think things through. Don’t cheat on your wife. If you can’t handle that, then file for divorce and then start dating other women, unless of course you are hoping to create a scandal. Don’t rush your latest product to market unless you are pretty sure it has no glitches. It’s not good for your reputation or that of your company if you start selling lemons and have to make amends with those who bought it.
When I get into a situation where I need to say I am sorry, it is usually for very different reasons than those folks who have been in the news lately. I apologize because I forgot to do something, I might have overreacted a bit, or had a miscommunication with someone. Nothing too serious, thankfully. When I was little, I was taught to:
1) Say sorry if I did something wrong and
2) Think before I act and speak (Thanks, Mom!).
I have this personal moral code that causes me to feel horrible when things go wrong and I let people down, so I try and make sure I don’t do anything that I know will cause trouble and result in a need for an apology. Even if I am 95 percent sure I could get away with something, I probably won’t do it. I feel badly and as if I need to apologize for things like being five minutes late to a doctor’s appointment, or for forgetting to write a friend back when she e-mails me with a question. Obviously, I could never imagine deliberately doing anything bad to a significant other or someone really important to me and having to deal with apologizing (Tiger, I’m talking about you).
I feel like I am a generally positive person who tends to expect the best from people unless they have proven otherwise, which means I just can’t understand how some folks can screw up or do something bad and NOT apologize at all. That seems unfathomable. I know some people have that personality or just are in a situation where they feel no remorse. Sometimes I think I care too much about making others happy and making sure everything is okay and that it would be better if I was a little more blasé. I’d like to feel free to say, “Oh, I didn’t RSVP to your wedding. Oh well” instead of “Oh no! I am so sorry – I totally forgot! I feel so terrible!” I imagine that isn’t going to change any time soon, though, and I will just continue to avoid those kind of situations. What do you apologize for? Are you like me – an avoider of apologies – or are you on apology overload?
As I log on to the internet tonight and flip on the TV tomorrow I will be wondering who will be the next person to make news with an apology. Will it be Lindsay Lohan apologizing for violating her probation or perhaps Mel Gibson for his angry rants?
All I know is it won’t be me on CNN saying “I’m sorry”!