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Healing Space | Let's stop making fake apologies

Apologies sometimes reveal more about the issuer than the original offence. It’s best to issue them sparingly and genuinely, otherwise they can unravel the issue.

January 16, 2022 / 08:38 AM IST
Not all apologies are welcome; some can leave a situation worse than it was to begin with. (Illustration by Suneesh K.)

Not all apologies are welcome; some can leave a situation worse than it was to begin with. (Illustration by Suneesh K.)

Note to readers: Healing Space is a weekly series that helps you dive into your mental health and take charge of your wellbeing through practical DIY self-care methods.

When actor Siddharth apologised to Saina Nehwal this week, he put out a letter that he probably thought was pretty generous and well-worded. It didn’t go down well and was met with considerable opposition from several quarters, some ideological and others just offended at the apology itself.

Healing Space logo for Gayatri Jayaram column on mental healthAll apologies aren’t welcome and they can leave a situation worse than it was to begin with. We have become a society where apologies are issued as tokens, statements by people who have not bothered to gauge the damage they inflict, to counter cancel culture, or to just retain their jobs, image, and appear to be doing the right thing.

Apologies are not a virtue. They need to make reparations and be genuine. Psychological research by Roy Lewicki, Beth Polin and Robert Lount Jr. in 2016 found that the most compelling apologies contain six elements: regret, explanation of what went wrong, acknowledgement of responsibility, repentance, offer of reparation, and a request for forgiveness. The most important of these was found to be owning up responsibility for the mistake.