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When An Apology Is Not An Apology (2)

Have you ever had an apology from someone who says they are sorry and then proceeds to tell you all the reasons why it wasn’t their fault? And does this qualify as an apology? Most people don’t feel quite satisfied after hearing the words “I’m sorry” followed by a list of excuses proclaiming the person’s innocence.

Previously, we looked at the case of Paul and his sister-in-law, Elise. As a lawyer, Paul had volunteered to find out for Elise the exact nature of the crimes that had occurred during her sexual assault.

After reassuring Elise that he would get back to her as soon as possible, Elise waited. And waited. Finally, she realized that she was waiting in vain and sought legal assistance elsewhere. Two independent lawyers were able to confirm that three crimes had been committed against Elise. And as I mentioned in the previous article on this topic, having this knowledge was very powerful for Elise. It helped her to let go of the guilt that she felt about the abuse situation.

However, she and her husband were extremely disappointed that Paul had failed to help out in this situation. Ironically, two complete strangers were far more capable of providing Elise with the comforting information that she needed to hear than her own family member.

When Paul’s brother approached Paul about his failure to either produce the volunteered information or simply communicate that he couldn’t help at all, Paul stated he had “forgotten all about it”. Apart from the inconsistency that a solicitor can “forget” the details of an assault when it constitutes part of the job description to listen to and retain such information, Paul did not apologize. This had the consequence of a breakdown in the communication between all parties involved.

Finally, Paul was asked by his brother to apologize. The apology took the form of an email, perhaps not the best of media given the personal nature of the incidence which sparked the whole problem. But at least it was some form of communication. Unfortunately, after the word “sorry” was typed, there followed a series of reasons why it was not really his fault after all. Paul’s main concern seemed to be centered around the awkwardness that he was now experiencing when the extended family met.

This was not an apology. It was an excuse. Fortunately Elise is long past the need for an apology from this man, and has successfully moved past the guilt and the assault. We talked about how she felt about the so-called apology and in next blog, we will look at how to deal with these pseudo-apologies when they arrive on our doorstep.


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