The Apologetic Administration

I’m sorry.

How do those words make you feel? Probably open and receptive to what the speaker will say next. Apologies are transformative experiences wherein the person who feels injured now feels empowered.

President Barack Obama has been going around apologizing to just about everyone, and it has become an underlying story. President Obama has apologized for some of his political appointments. He has apologized to Nancy Reagan. Most recently, he has apologized to European leaders. Sean Hannity, and other political pundits, has been extremely critical of President Obama’s apologies. Hannity has even called the President’s overseas trip “the apology tour”.

Those who are upset about the apologies question what the United States has to apologize for, and they question why President Obama doesn’t spend his time talking about how great and unique the United States is as a country. Furthermore, they see the apologies as a sign of weakness, and they perceive that an apology to a European nation is akin to saying that our country is inferior to their country.

The whole apology debate has become a partisan issue. Those who favor the apologies find it refreshing because they perceive that former President George W. Bush apologized for nothing. Columnist Steve Adubato writes, “(Former President Bush) either refused or simply couldn’t acknowledge any of his mistakes.”

Unfortunately, what’s lost in the political rhetoric is the true power of an apology. There has been too much debate about whether any injury actually occurred and whether the recipient is deserving of an apology. Instead, there should be a recognition that strong relationships are built on equality and evenhandedness.

Technically speaking, an apology is an acknowledgement that the person has created an injury and they are accepting responsibility for the damage. An apology can also be a powerful tool in negotiations and mediation. A conflict typically involves one person feeling injured by the other. Many times, it is not effective or helpful to focus on whether the injury actually occurred; rather, the apology itself enables closure and allows the people involved to move on so they are able to work together in the future.

Despite what is being said by the critics of President Obama’s apologies, it is not a sign of weakness to apologize. Strong leaders are able to show humility and admit mistakes. Strong negotiators understand apologies play an important role in transforming relationships.

     Posted on June 15, 2009 at 2:45 pm | No comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *