Pinky Pie

Mistakes were made & Me

Posted on: January 14, 2010

As I was driving to the mall this morning, I heard a big bank CEO interviewed about the banking financial crisis.

“Mistakes were made,” he said.

I laughed. When my son, Michael, was home over the holidays we made all sorts of phony apologizes.

“Mistakes were made,” Michael said. “Steps will be taken. Errors are regretted. Corrections will be made.”

And that was for somehthing like not passing the salt in a timely fashion, or for blocking my place on the Scrabble board. “Remorse was shown.”

As Michael explained to me, in the world of phony apologies, “You have to say it in the passive voice.”

It’s a far different to say, “Mistakes were made” than “I made a mistake. I should have passed the salt to you right away.” With the second you take responsibility for hogging the salt.

It should be noted that no family members were injured in the process of our supposed mistakes and no one lost their homes or went bankrupt. The same can’t be said for the results of the bankers’ errors.

Instead of “Mistakes were made,” it would have been far better for them to say, “I made a mistake. I was so greedy and wanted as much money as fast as possible that I didn’t care who was hurt in the process.” In the passive voice that would have been, “Shit was not given.” (Excuse the language.)

When I got to the mall after hearing that interview with the banker, I caught a portion of a podcast of the January 1 episode of On The Media, a public radio show.

Coincidentally, the theme was all about media mistakes. Guest Craig Silverman, editor of a website devoted to media errors: www.regrettheerror.com, noted the biggest trend for 2009 was the rise of the fact checkers: Factcheck.org and Politifact.com. They served as truth squads for politicians.

Silverman gave Correction of the Year honors/dishonors to the Washington Post, which ran this correction:

“A Nov. 26 article in the District edition of Local Living incorrectly said a Public Enemy song declared 9/11 a joke. The song refers to 911, the emergency phone number.”

Silverman’s personal favorite was a correction in the Los Angeles Times made about a news event in Hayward, Wisconsin:

“An item in the National Briefing in Sunday’s Section A said a bear wandered into a grocery store in Hayward, Wisconsin, on Friday and headed for the beer cooler. It was Thursday.”

Hey, it’s Wisconsin. Of course, the weekend started on Thursday with acquisition of beer.

And then there are all those public figures who stand in front of the public (when they are back from hiking the Appalachian Trail, for example) to express terrible regret for their actions. Usually, the “good wife” stands behind these men as they come not so clean about their misbehaviors. They apologize to their family, to their constituents and co-workers.

Silverman gave Apology of the Year to The Sun in England for this little error:

“In a report on May 5th, we claimed that [A.B.] had brought two girls to the house he shares with partner [S.M.] and had sex with one of them. We published a picture, which we said showed him straightening one of the girls’ hair.

We now accept the picture was, in fact, of [B] and his younger sister [P] in Poland some years earlier, and that neither did Mr. [B} invite back nor have sex with either of the girls in our story. We apologize to Mr. [B} and Ms. [M] for any embarrassment caused.”

Talk about checkbook journalism. The steps for that one had to be expensive.

So how should you apologize for a wrong? A website called Perfect Apology (http://www.perfectapology.com/political-apology.html)

suggests the following steps as the science of apologizing:

  • A detailed account of the situation
  • Acknowledgement of the hurt or damage done
  • Taking responsibility for the situation
  • Recognition of your role in the vent
  • A statement of regret
  • Asking for forgiveness
  • A statement of regret
  • Asking for forgiveness
  • A promise that it won’t happen again
  • A form of restitution whenever possible

The art of the apology is how you deliver it, whether it is sincere and clear or in that passive voice in which you don’t take responsibility for anything.

With that said, it is time for me to admit I am not perfect. As you might expect, mistakes were made. Errors are regretted. Remorse was shown and corrections will be taken.  For all that, …

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