Anatomy of an Apology
Everybody say hell yeah! because I received an apologetic note from radio personality/musician Danny Balis (a k a Delicate Blossom), whose on-air insults infuriated me and quite a few other women.
Not only that, but it’s a good apology, and one that had the intended effect: I forgive him.
Why was this apology effective? Danny has given me permission to use his note, so I thought I’d dissect it in light of a study I found, titled “When apologies work: How matching apology components to victims’ self-construals facilitates forgiveness.”
Self-construal is the way we see ourselves in relation to other people. Some people see themselves as independent; some in relation to other individuals; some are focused on their position in a collective—in my case, the sisterhood and the media.
What this research indicates is that just getting an apology doesn’t necessarily make the offended person feel better and forgiving; it also helps if the apology suits the person’s self-construal. The researchers theorize that a person who has an individual self-construal seeks compensation; a person with relational self-construal seeks empathy; and a person with a collective self-construal seeks acknowledgment that norms were violated.
In the laboratory, at least, the theory was upheld and the researchers conclude that the best way to make an apology stick is to either know the person well enough to tailor it, or to cover all bases.
So, why did Danny’s apology work for me? A few choice excerpts:
… i have been cared for, loved, and raised by strong women all my life. none of them would be too proud to hear me use the word “bitch” against any woman, much less one that i should consider somewhat of a colleague.
Jackpot. This addresses my collective self-construal…more important than my personal feelings was that his words were a slam against women. I’m glad he didn’t apologize for hurting my feelings because that doesn’t play into my outrage at all. He could have hurt my feelings without stepping over the line and I wouldn’t have raised a ruckus.
And in my response to him I pointed out that I am not “somewhat of a colleague.” I am a colleague; we are both members of the media. This, too, is important to me. I’ve worked for many years to build a professional reputation I consider worth protecting. I told Danny that even worse than his name-calling was the way other male colleagues blew this off as me being a crybaby. I’ve lost respect for a number of people through this fiasco.
…the bottom line is this: that is NOT what is in my heart…i’ve been doing this for over 12 years, and although that is ample time to know better, eventually, i cross a line that i’m not really proud of in order to fall into that drunken character that the listener has come to love/hate, and i lose myself….
…i guess i just fell into “playing radio” and “boys will be boys” shit. i can’t say that i won’t do it again in the future. they ask us to push the envelope, and i suppose i will continue to do that, but i tell you what…i have learned alot about myself and i hope i will use a bit better judgment in the future when faced with something like this….
…. this was more about me falling into the trap of being as asshole on the radio and not thinking ahead. and for that, sophia, i offer my most heartfelt apology.
I called bullshit on some of this, because he’d already been criticized by women on his Facebook page for insulting me. I don’t entirely believe he was that swept up in the moment. But I’ll let it go. I know where he’s coming from…after all, my employer wants the same thing his does. In the meeting of Observer music writers I recently attended, we were urged to come up with rants in order to rile readers up and get them involved. Boy howdy, that sure worked. (Not that I pandered; I wrote what I believe. And I’m not at all convinced it did the King Bucks a whit of harm. I believe just the opposite. Their fans want me strung up.)
…my actions have even turned off your husband from listening to a station he once loved. i would be pissed if i had to boycott an entertainment form that i love out of principal against some douchebag’s statements. that sucks. and i am sorry to him for insulting his wife…
I’m just glad he said this. I’m sad that he spoiled something Tom enjoyed for years.
i understand if you choose to use this in any way. i’m not trying to keep some tough public exterior, so you do have my permission to do whatever you want with this missive.
And here’s a nod to my individual self-construal: He offers me compensation by allowing me to share his apology.
All in all, a well-rounded, thoughtful, and satisfactory apology and I have accepted it. Well done, sir, and I will gladly let you buy me a drink someday.
P.S. Sincere thanks to the sisterhood–especially Andrea, Merritt, Michelle, and Laura–for their support. And to Pete Freedman for not ignoring it altogether.
Dembling, S. (2011). Anatomy of an Apology. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 31, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/research/2011/anatomy-of-an-apology/