There is no question that political leaders influence our understanding of ethical behaviour. Sadly, the political climate is so toxic, partisan and divisive that we need to think more independently and objectively so that the social fabric in our communities and personal relations are not similarly poisoned. The PM's blackface scandal is a perfect example.
The other political parties seem to be busy milking this for all its worth. But the important questions are: Do you accept the PM's apology? And what do you look for in an apology in your life?
While forgiveness is something we understand is important to do regardless of if a person apologizes, whether or not you should trust that person again is entirely dependent on the quality of an apology.
Giving and receiving apologies is a critical part of living and working well together with others. Let's get this right.
What the research says
To determine what makes an apology successful, researchers at Ohio State University conducted two separate experiments with a total of 755 participants and published their results in Negotiation and Conflict Management Research. The found that the more of above six elements (pictured above) that were contained in a apology, the more effective, credible and adequate the apology was perceive to be.
The most important components to an apology were found to be acknowledgment of responsibility - saying it was your fault, admitting you made a mistake and an offer of repair.
Some encouraging news is that NDP Leader Singh has said he is willing to receive an in-person apology and presumably a request for forgiveness.
What the law says
The law and the courts set standards for what constitutes and effective apology.
A recent example was this summer, when the Mayor of Norfolk, Ontario humiliated a city staffer in a meeting by insulting her report and tearing it apart before the Council and public. An apology was sought by the Council and the Mayor "apologized by saying":
“We have far bigger issues in Norfolk County than chickens to be dealing with. That said, to the taxpayers of Norfolk County, I sincerely apologize that my ripping of a piece of paper in my rough estimation cost us all somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000, if not more. Although we have an expensive, expansive report, I guess I still live back in an era where a simple, ‘Mayor Chopp, don’t rip the piece of paper again,’ would have sufficed.”
The Integrity Commissioner rejected this apology and called it a "non-apology" and docked the Mayor 10 days pay as penalty. In his report, the Commissioner cites Ontario’s Apology Act, 2009, which contains a definition of “apology.”
The Commissioner said a “truthful, honest and sincere apology” typically contains seven (7) core elements: recognition, remorse, responsibility, repentance, explanation, reparation, and reform.
The Commissioners verdict was: "Regrettably, Mayor Chopp’s statement does not contain the majority of the foregoing elements, most particularly, a failure to acknowledge or recognize the harm her statements and actions have caused. Her statement plainly does not comply with council’s demand for a public apology for what she did at the meeting.”
The good news is that the Council and Commissioners firmness paid off. In the end, the Mayor of Norfolk issued a full apology that was accepted by all.
Back to you
The way in which people give and receive apologies (or fail to) should help you in determining their fitness for political office. But it is also a good measure of who you should include and leave out of your life.
Don't violate your soul by letting people in your life who do not apologize when they hurt, betray or otherwise cause harm to you, your friends or family. It's called setting healthy boundaries.
When you are wrong, give a full and sincere apology. Not only for the sake of the person or people you hurt, but also to ensure you are part of making your world a safer and happier place for all.
At the end of the day, its all part of being a good friend, a good neighbour and fostering healthy community.
For more, take the journey from Bullyville to Sustainaville.