Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Tiger Woods - An Apology

The apology of Tiger Woods was hailed as one of the most powerful acts of contrition in recent history. Certainly, fewer people have apologized so profusely for quite so long, and in such a public way.

Equally surprising was the sharp volley of criticism from some media commentators.. "Does he mean it?" .... "Is it enough...?" et cetera. I found myself feeling a little sorry for Tiger - who, having been placed on the vertiginous platform of sports celebrity, got caught in the seductive narcissism of riches and global attention. Inevitably, he fell from grace. I had no doubts about his sincerity but many others did.

It reminds me that apologies aren't an event in and of themselves. Apologizing is a transaction. Someone says sorry, conveying an empathic understanding of the impact of their behaviour on the other. The other part of the transaction is that someone else has to accept (and maybe forgive if they can).

How come some people didn't forgive Tiger? I suspect there are many reasons; not least the kind of covert sadism of some towards successful people. In the UK particularly, we love to see people fall from grace; in fact we seem to build them up quite deliberately sometimes, just to tear them down.
As for me, I guess Tiger didn't hurt me much. He didn't disappoint me too much, as I never really paid much attention before.

There are other apologies, however, that I simply don't accept. Because the process of apology isn't complete for me. "National Express Trains would like to apologize for any inconvenience caused".
This one leaves me cold. National Express doesn't listen to or acknowledge my anger, fury, disappointment, and regret. They don't ask to hear it, they kind of pre-empt it with a blanket message intended to cover "any" inconvenience. This isn't a real apology - so why should I accept it??

Real healing happens when we listen to the hurt we've caused, and let the other person know that we really understand its impact. A true apology can be difficult because it involves acknowledging the experience of the other - and facing the reality that we may have done something wrong.