Is There Such a Thing as an Insincere Apology?
Let’s consider the question another way.
Is there such a thing as an insincere waiter?
An inattentive waiter, sure. An incompetent waiter, all too often. Even a surly waiter, on thankfully rare occasions.
But if your meal is delivered accurately, politely, in a timely manner, do you ever speculate if the waiter’s heart is really in it?
So why are we so hung up on sincerity and apology?
We seem to be very concerned that we might be duped into accepting an apology from an offender who’s not really sincere.
For example, your friend may apologize but how can you be sure he or she’s really sincere?
It’s a useless exercise to speculate on what truly goes on inside another person’s soul.
And since “sincerity” is a matter you can’t measure, it can’t be important to your response.
Apology is a Verb
That interior part of the process doesn’t really matter because it’s the exterior part of apology that’s important. It’s the exterior part of the apology that can be measured. For that reason, I’m okay with calling an apology a performance. We act out an apology.
Let’s get back to the waiter serving you a meal.
Does it matter it you if the waiter is sincere in the performance of his job?
Sure, ideally you’d like your server to be into the honor or serving you. It’s probably not your preference for the server to be secretly resentful or distracted.
But none of that matters if your dinner is delivered in a professional manner, If it is, you accept the service, thank the waiter, enjoy the meal, and leave a nice tip. The waiter’s interior experience is none of the diner’s business as long as the server takes care to protect the diner from that interior experience.
Of course, if by his or her performance for whatever reason, the server demonstrates a lack of professionalism, friendliness, and ability to deliver a meal in a professional manner, then a customer is entitled to be annoyed, complain to the manager, and withhold a tip.
Same thing with apologies
Forget sincerity and focus on performance.
Is the apology delivered in a professional manner? Has the offender offered the healing words? Has she accepted responsibility? Has his body language been appropriate? Has she offered appropriate restitution? Has he made promises about future behavior and, most important, has he kept those promises?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then the offender has delivered an effective apology that you should be able to accept on the strength of the delivery and his subsequent performance. It’s time to move on.
Doing anything else is like stiffing a waiter who has performed professionally because you are not sufficiently convinced of his or her sincerity.
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