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Hello Caller: I’ve fronted up on a major scandal, so why won’t people accept my apology?

In-house psychotherapist Ms X helps out a senior rugby administrator in an apology-shaped pickle.

Dear Ms X,

I’m having a bit of a problem getting people to believe I really am sorry about a thing that maybe happened. I didn’t actually do the thing that was bad, but I’m in charge of the people that may have perhaps, pending evidential satellite photos, allegedly done the bad thing.

So I’ve had to talk to lots of people about how, if the guys actually did do anything, we would totally try to make sure they didn’t do anything like it again and that we’ve all learnt powerful lessons and many take-home learnings from this thing that sort of happened.

But my problem is that that even though I am fronting up not everyone is believing me.

It’s making me a bit shitty actually. I wasn’t even there when the alleged thing happened but I am doing all the fronting up and people are still angry at me.

I am sorry, well as sorry as I can be about a thing that I didn’t do and didn’t happen to me. So why aren’t people accepting my apology?

From a guy, just an ordinary guy and definitely not Steve Tew*

 

Hello Definitely not Steve Tew,

As Elton John said “Sorry seems to be the hardest word” and he wrote that song even before he married that nice lady Renate in 1984 and probably had to apologise to her.

So I hear you. You didn’t do “the thing”. Some other guys did the thing but your current role in life is to be the boss guy for the guys who did the thing. You fronted up and said some stuff that seemed adequately apologetic and maybe you thought that would be it, but its not. It’s bigger than that.

Have you got kids or animals, Definitely not Steve Tew? Have you ever had to front up to casual acquaintances or perfect strangers and apologise for your kid or your dog?

“Sorry! Little Jaden just bit one of the twins on the face. He hasn’t learnt how to share yet.”

“Sorry! Winona the schnoodle has shit on your Balinese day bed every day for the last week. She must really like it up there.”

In my experience, if you have an apology to make where you can totally empathise with and relate to the wronged party then it gives your “sorry” the necessary weight. People seem prepared to accept an apology that is made sincerely.

But maybe you aren’t feeling the horror of this situation because you weren’t there or you can’t relate to what happened – either with the wronged person or the guys that did the thing.

Perhaps that’s why people are still angry. Perhaps that is why they are calling bullshit on your sorry.

Perhaps the guys who you are the boss guy of need to front up. Or man up, as it were.

And I have to say that with the amount of “perhaps” and “allegedlys” in the mix, it’s going to be hard for you to give a rock solid “Oscar nominee Meryl Streep” style sorry. You are not feeling the sorry on a cellular level so all you are projecting is annoyance.

Right now you are at Justin Bieber level sorry, which was more of a “Hey, if it’s not a million years too late for me to throw you a sorry about my shithouse behaviour…”

In fact if I am quoting Elton therapeutically, then let’s check in with Justin:

“You know I try but I don’t do too well with apologies, I hope I don’t run out of time, could someone call the referee?”

It’s uncanny isn’t it, Definitely not Steve Tew, it’s like the Biebs was reading your mind!

justin-bieber

From the language of your apology statement, it seems you have a situation going on that involves lawyers making a lot of money by the billable hour. I can almost hear the calculator humming from here, so I get that this is complicated for you. But lawyers and apologies don’t mix. An apology to a lawyer is like a mirror to Medusa or a match to a fart, if you will. Someone is going to get burnt and it’s probably not the lawyer.

Ideally as soon as teams of lawyers – or just people with a disagreement – are going at it, there should be someone who calls time, blows the whistle and invokes natural justice. Generally we call it doing the right thing.

Can you, Definitely not Steve Tew, do the the right thing here? Because it might be what you have to do as boss guy.

Will you finish your job as boss of the guys that did the bad thing (maybe), and think “Shit, I should have got those guys who did it to stand up”? Will that be the thought you are left with at the end of your professional life?

Because not doing that has got to be making you uncomfortable. It probably isn’t helping you get eight hours of sleep a night or making you very pleasant to be around.

I bet you are, to put it in therapeutic parlance, ‘displacing’ some of that frustration onto other people. Perhaps the people who are expecting you to be sorry, or your loved ones, or maybe you’re giving Winona the schnoodle a quiet kick when you get home.

Either way, it’s not an optimum situation. I feel like it would be better for all concerned if you were to pass this on to the people who were responsible for the bad thing so they could do what needed to be done.

I am assuming (perhaps incorrectly) that we are talking about grown men here. Wouldn’t it be great if you gave them the chance to be grown men?

I have to defer again to the Tao of Elton on this, which offers a perfect summation of the mess we sometimes get in when we fail to do the right thing: “It’s a sad sad situation and it’s getting more and more absurd.”

So Definitely not Steve Tew, you have to be the boss guy here – not just the slightly resentful, constantly justifying apology guy. Wouldn’t it be great if you got to be the guy that got the other guys to do the right thing? Some people might hate you for it but I reckon more people will thank you for it.

Ms. X

* DEFINITELY NOT STEVE TEW

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