Thursday, March 17, 2011

Anatomy Of An Apology

In the face of great tragedy, it is inevitable that the foibles of ordinary mortals sometimes result in careless expression of word or thought, in that impetuous moment of insensitivity that cause more grief than physical pain. All is not lost, if the transgression is followed up with genuine expression of remorse.

There were 3 notable instances of apology during this week. In Tokyo, outspoken conservative governor Shintaro Ishihara, well known for his nationalistic views and denial of the Nanking massacre, apologised on Tuesday for describing Japan's deadly earthquake and tsunami as "divine punishment". He said Japanese people were becoming "greedy" and highlighted the case of people who continue to pocket their parents' pensions by delaying death notifications, "It is necessary to wash away the greedy mind ... by using tsunami."

In Singapore, MediaCorp issued an apology for sending out a marketing e-mail in its eagerness to urge advertisers to capitalise on breaking news about the earthquake in Japan. Responding to the backlash, Edwin Koh, senior vice-president of marketing & sales planning in Mediacorp, clarified that the email was targeted at a group of clients and agencies that had interest in being part of Channel NewsAsia's “breaking news” coverage.

In Malaysia, the Malay-language Berita Harian apologised for publishing a cartoon depicting the popular Japanese icon Ultraman running away from an oncoming tsunami. "We do not intend to be insensitive or to poke fun at last Friday's incident," the paper said in a front-page apology on Monday, adding that it was "very sympathetic" to the plight of the Japanese people.

The victims of the infraction are unfortunately in no position to comment, they have more urgent concerns to address. As for the apologies, their presentation speak for themselves. Some say a proper apology should always include the following:
  • a detailed accounting by the offending party which will serve to legitimize the reaction of the recipient
  • an acknowledgement of the hurt or damage done to validate the feelings of the recipient
  • a recognition of the offender's role in the event to avoid defending the action or justifying the situation
  • a clear statement of regret, with no vacillation of expression
  • a request for forgiveness
  • a promise that it won't happen again
  • a form of restitution whenever possible
Sometimes, a paltry "I stand corrected" just won't do.


  1. The "I stand corrected" phrase is a tacit way of saying "I said something wrong but I am not responsible for the sense of hurt you feel".

  2. "I stand corrected" - a protocol used by modern men with significant ego to placate the offended. It ususally has nothing to do with the true feeling or belief of the offender. It is a form of PR speak.

  3. In all fairness, the Japanese aren't exactly great in the art of apology either.

    The 'divine' punishment' is a very buddhist way of relating cause & effect. However, the governor has probably misquoted the cause. Saying they are sorry and backing it up with real facts in their history book is one, and stopping all the dolphins killing in Taiji is another deeds that will start them on planting good seeds.

    Still, my heart goes out to the japan & the japanese people in this tragedy.

  4. It will be good if the Japanese emperor apologosed for Japan's WW2 atrocities even it is 60 years late. No, the japanese goernment still stood corrected over their WW2 misdeeds and it is not surprised that people see recent events as retribution.

  5. I think it's basically the easiest way out of a bloody blunder that one has caused. That sort of shortcut that any coward will resort to in order to save one's face.

    Isn't it cheap just to anyhow open one's mouth and then later there is nothing else one would need to do except to say "I stand corrected ?

    I stand corrected if he is no coward.

  6. His winning in the cunning election will prove tat all of u do not know how respected he is by the sheeple.

  7. Tattler, i stand corrected if the following is not an anatomy of a coward.

    track record serving the enemy in WW2,
    track record using underhand means to win elections, law suits, tarnish opponents,
    track record backstabbing fellow comrades fighting for a common cause,
    track record speaking with a forked-tongue,
    track record trusting foreign mercenaries more than his own people.

    to me, it's best this coward take whatever apology with him to his grave.