Wednesday, October 18, 2017
A Proper Apology
A Proper Apology
In this age of sensitivity, people are easily offended. There are so many issues and so many people it is sometimes difficult for advertisers to send a message that does not bring down the wrath of the offended. It is almost impossible to voice an opinion on a post or casual conversation without harming the sensitivities of a group with an agenda. Social media has exacerbated the problem as it is so easy to post a comment without completely vetting the content.
Between the traditional media, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, et al, the objections to an insensitive comment or message are instantaneous. Within minutes of a posting, outrage to an objectionable message explodes across the internet and the damage to a person, organization or business is immediate.
Some objectionable messages are mean-spirited and offense was intended, for these there is no acceptable apology.
Most messages are attempts to be clever without realizing the repercussions of certain symbols or words. Unintended or not, the messenger will be accused of, at the least, as being subliminally offensive.
An offense message requires an apology. Often the apology is issued only minutes after the offense has been committed. It is never enough, or ever accepted. Once an offensive message has been released, the damage is irretrievable. Why is that? Are the offended so hurt that nothing will sooth their anger?
Sometimes yes. However, most cases it is because the apology is never really an apology. It seems very few people know how to apologize. An insincere apology is often as offensive as the message which created the need to apologize.
As a person who has been a jerk most of my life and one who has been married three times, I might be qualified as an expert in apologizing.
These are the most common mistakes in an apology:
“The makers of “Pet Weasel Houses” wish to apologize to anyone we may have offended with our recent advertisement which depicted weasels as left-handed creatures. It was never our intent to disparage left-handed people and we are sorry if this advertisement in any way may have given the wrong message. Once again we are sorry.”
Let’s analyze this typical apology that will never be accepted and only further fan the flames of the offended.
Keep in mind the offended are upset and they want acknowledgement of their hurt. They want groveling, they want a clear admission of the offense, and they want assurance that a similar message will never be repeated.
First of all, “wish to apologize” is not sincere; “to anyone” insinuates some people were not offended…this does not soften the offense; “we may have offended” indicates the message should not have been interpreted as offensive; “never our intent” dodging the offense does not mitigate it in the eyes of the offended; “we are sorry if” there is no IF, there is a DID, otherwise you would not be apologizing; “in any way” do not misdirect, you need to grovel; “may have” once again, no MAY have, DID, otherwise you would not need to apologize; “we are sorry” not strong enough, if you are going to grovel for forgiveness, then grovel good!
Here is the proper apology. It still may not be enough, but it will at least not fan the flames of anger even more:
“The makers of “Pet Weasel Houses” are sincerely sorry for the offensive message of our recent advertisement. The depiction of weasels as left-handed creatures is offensive not only to left-handed people, but to everyone who knows or may come to know a left-handed person. This advertisement has given a very offensive message, it was wrong, and there is no excuse for it’s ever been made or released. We are taking steps to discipline those responsible and to assure such an offensive, negative stereotype of any kind is rooted out of our corporate mentality. Once again we sincerely apologize for the offensive message of this advertisement.”
As a left-handed person even with this apology, I would still probably never buy a weasel house from this company but it might satisfy me enough to not continue an active campaign against it. I might not forgive, but I would probably forget.