I recently became interested in the concept of making an effective apology to redress hurtful acts. My interest was not out of necessity, but curiosity. During my early teen years, I was quite amused to see the Japanese form of apology being played out by the head of a corporation. Head bowed. On bended knees. Mournful. He was doing, according to my recollection, a less playful version of Dogeza.
Times do change and some things remain the same. Take the case of a recent video apology given by a Japanese pop idol , Minegishi Minami of AKB48, to her fans. Minegishi’s apology, although uncomely, over-the-top, and uninviting to watch, from my cultural lens, has a weighty purpose.
Regardless of ones cultural norms, offering or accepting an apology is a weighty act. It has the power to heal, restore broken relationships, prevent retaliation, and can even assuage guilt and shame. It is a humane way for reconciling personal and social differences.
Whether delivered on a personal, national, or international level, a true apology is simple and communicated within a short time of the offense.
According to Aaron Lazare, the former Chancellor and Dean of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, “the rewards of an effective apology can only be earned.”
Five elements that increase the likelihood of one earning the rewards of an apology are as follows:
- acknowledge the specific offence without conditions (no if I did so and so statements);
- express genuine remorse;
- offer reparations;
- refrain from blaming the other person’s sensitivity;
- and include a commitment to make changes in the future.
In my next post, I will delve into cross-cultural research on the psychology of an effective apology.