To regret and apologise, and yet not say sorry
Saying sorry can completely change the situation. It disarms the other party, restores you to the moral high ground and goes some way to ease the pain you’ve causedcolumns Updated: Mar 24, 2018 16:05 IST
Believe it or not, I’m starting to admire Arvind Kejriwal! His apologies to a series of people he’s obviously libelled and defamed are a remarkable development and one that I, at least, thought he would not be capable of. Yet he has done it. Not once, not even twice, but multiple times.
For most of us, saying sorry is one of the most difficult things to do. To have to express it in public can make it stick in the throat. And to do all of this when you’re well-known and, therefore, aware it will attract enormous attention is enough to send shivers down your spine. Yet dear Mr. Kejriwal has done it. Each and every one of these three.
The truth is sorry is a simple word which pride does not permit most of us to use. Many feel we’re either too old, too senior, too important or, even, socially superior to deign to apologise. So even when we know we’re wrong we pretend we aren’t and carry on as if it doesn’t matter. We just don’t care about the pain and hurt we’ve caused the other person or the foolish predicament in which we’ve placed ourselves.
Now I know Kejriwal was probably motivated by the need to wriggle out of the many defamation cases he faces. He may even have been in danger of losing some of them. The financial cost that could have entailed might have been exorbitant. But none of that detracts from the fact he still had the guts to say sorry.
In contrast, many of us, though in less invidious positions, don’t have the strength of character to apologise. And let me admit I’m definitely in that category. Occasionally I may say sorry but rarely when I actually need to and only infrequently to those who really count. It’s odd, but I find the closer a person is the more difficult it becomes to say it. Conversely, it almost rolls off the tongue to those I barely know and, therefore, hardly matters. It ought to be the other way round but, in my case, it’s not.
Yet saying sorry can completely change the situation. It disarms the other party, restores you to the moral high ground and goes some way to ease the pain you’ve caused. Rare is the person who won’t accept an apology even when it’s apparent it’s not sincerely meant.
In fact, apologising is a clever strategy for handling difficult situations that your own folly has created. Perhaps this is how the Delhi chief minister intended it. But what matters is that it worked. The recipients of his apology knew it would be ungracious not to accept.
Let me, however, end on a pernickety note. In one instance, Kejriwal has only expressed regret. In Nitin Gadkari’s case, he didn’t use the word sorry. And although colloquially we accept regret as an apology it’s not necessarily so. After all, you can regret upsetting someone by speaking a hurtful truth and yet not apologise for doing so.
At one level, this is, of course, a moot point. Without saying sorry Kejriwal has created the impression he has done so. On the other hand, everyone has accepted he’s apologised and many in his party are upset he has when, in fact, he’s fallen short.
Which only proves that what you say is not as important as how you are understood. And if that wasn’t your intention, it’s just too bad!
The views expressed are personal