When CEOs Say They're Sorry

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From time to time I provide counsel to organizations facing a public crisis whether at fault or not. And I have written in the past about the importance of empathy and apology as essential subtext to crisis messaging.

Corporate mea culpas have become increasingly frequent, but often now sound rote. They begin something like this 'My first concern is for the safety . . .etc., etc.'

An article in the New York Times today about inter-personal apologies demonstrates what is wrong with apologies that are over-scripted and sound like it. They are hollow rather than heartfelt; they recognize expedience not humanness and 'real hurt'.

In an interview with Salon’s Elias Isquith, Mr. Battistella offered more insight into the interpersonal uses of apologies. Mr. Isquith summed up one of the book’s lessons: 'a good apology is about recognizing the humanity of the person or people to whom you’re apologizing. Recognizing their hurt is real, legitimate and that it matters.'

CEOs and other senior executives will always seek the opinion of legal and PR counsel when acknowledging their organization's role in a mess.

But at the end of the day saying sorry has to come from the heart not the head.

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