Outrage Culture Has Ruined the Apology


In The Apology Impulse, co-author Sean O’Meara, a professional apologizer and public relations professional, argues that the corporate world has ruined the sanctity of the apology by failing to say sorry and over-apologizing. The book, which was published on October 29, examines the most egregious and effective business apologies in recent memory, from United Airlines’ passenger-dragging debacle in 2017 (and its failure to properly apologize) to Johnson & Johnson’s calm handling of a Tylenol recall in 1982.

Allow me to disagree. But first: a professional apologizer? How does one become a professional apologizer?

And now for my disagreement. I don’t think it’s corporations that have ruined the apology. It’s the rest of us. There is virtually no apology that is widely accepted anymore. No matter how sincere or real, half of us will call it a non-apology apology; half of us will insist the company still doesn’t get it; half of us will say the apology is useless because that particular bell can’t be unrung; and half of us will be pissed off that an apology was offered in the first place when none was necessary. In many cases, the permanently outraged insist that two or three of these are true at the same time, which is why this adds up to 200 percent.

I have come to believe that outrage culture makes apologies pointless. The people who claim to be offended will never accept an apology of any kind and the people who aren’t offended don’t care unless you screw up the apology so badly it becomes a story in itself. It’s a no-win situation.

If you want to publicly apologize because you genuinely think you’ve wronged someone, you should do it. But do it for your own good and that of the person you’re apologizing to. Not only should you not expect any kind of public appreciation, you should expect to be dragged even more for your utter failure as a human being to understand the immense damage you’ve done.

And one other piece of advice: never, ever apologize on YouTube. Issue a press release and leave it at that.


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