How to say sorry without digging a deeper hole
THERE’S an art to a public apology.
Kiwi author Bob Selden says the right words can make a world of difference.
He has explored how leaders from all fields should be aware how their words filter down – and how damaging a poorly chosen word could be.
The public apologywas the classic example of where leaders could get it wrong, or spectacularly right, and Selden gave two examples.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s heartfelt words over the murder of British backpacker Grace Millane made a near perfect public apology, he said.
‘‘From the Kiwis I have spoken to, there is this overwhelming sense of hurt and shame that this has happened in our country, a place that prides itself on our hospitality, on our manaakitanga, especially to those who are visiting our shores,’’ Ardern said.
‘‘So on behalf of New Zealand, I want to apologise to Grace’s family – your daughter should have been safe here, and she wasn’t, and I’m sorry for that.’’
Anyone needing to make an apology should follow Ardern’s lead and shoot from the hip and the heart, Selden said.
In stark contrast, the apology by Wellington property managers Quinovic, after an illjudged advertising campaign, was a failure.
The adverts included slogans such as ‘‘Cheers to you! Are you financing your tenant’s social life?’’ and ‘‘Afraid to man up? We aren’t . . . 99.6 per cent of our tenants pay on time or a day early.’’
Public outrage soared over the depiction of tenants as deadbeats, with Polynesian and Ma¯ori actors portraying them.
‘‘The messagewas not at all intended to be offensive towards tenants. Quinovic Te Aro highly values its tenants and once again we offer our sincere apologies for any offence this may have caused,’’ Quinovic said.
The company made the mistake of offering an apology, and saying it was sincere, Selden said.
‘‘You’ve shot yourself in the foot – you’ve just reminded everybody you’ve recently done something that made you seem untrustworthy. You don’t want that . . . Kiwis have pretty good bull.... detectors.’’
Bob Selden: Kiwis are good at detecting BS.