When Someone’s Trying to Apologize, Get Off Their Back
by Bill Catlette
I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but it has become all too rare for someone, anyone, upon making a mistake to step up, acknowledge their error, meaningfully apologize, make it right as best they can, and promise to do better. Due to lots of poor examples and an over-indulgence of “reality tv”, the reaction from far too many of us when we actually see someone trying to responsibly clean up their mess is to pile on from the safety of the social media cheap seats. Stage a food fight, vote ‘em off the island, and move on to the next episode. I fail to see the benefit in this behavior.
I’m not much of a “Spicey” fan, but that is exactly what happened recently when White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer momentarily let his mouth outrun his mind and seemed to forget that millions of Jews had been gassed to death during the Holocaust. Within a few short hours of making the gaffe, Spicer appeared live on two networks, in front of the White House, and plainly admitted his mistake, without equivocation. Taking into account his position and the person he has to answer to, his move took considerable courage. Yet, twenty hours later, the howls and tsk tsk’ing have only grown, not abated.
All we do when we engage in such behavior is drive people, ourselves included, further into the bunker, thereby lessening the odds that future mistakes will be dealt with in an adult manner. Sadly, deflect and denial become even more the standard response, as millions of impressionable youth observe and then mimic our behavior. Beyond the accumulating social rot, we retard productivity growth as learning is slowed when everyone chooses to bury rather than admit and learn from their mistakes. We can and must do better.
Please, the next time someone is legitimately trying to apologize for an error, listen, thank them, and drag at least one knucklehead off their back, United-style.