The social ritual of apology is highly nuanced in Western cultures. At its profoundest, it represents felt and displayed feelings of remorse for injuring another party and transgressing a central moral code. The felt regret is accompanied by a strong impulse to right the wrongs caused. The absence of such apology is taken as denial or devaluation of the moral worth of the harmed party, hence the restorative significance of a sincere apology. The restoration, however, is likely to be more symbolic than literal for a deep hurt, as the injury itself cannot be reversed. What is restored by the apology is the dignity of the victim; recognition that they should not have been treated in the way they have been. The moral and relational value of such apologies is nicely captured by Kathleen Gill:The apology is not a thing; it is an act that displays a certain set of beliefs, attitudes, etc. experienced by the offender. More importantly, an apology is not a mechanism for offsetting losses. The apology does not compensate for loss; it is instead a way to acknowledge the value of what was lost. ( Gill, 2000, p. 16 )It follows that this kind of apology implicates emotions beyond feelings of remorse and regret. It involves the expression of feelings of empathy and shame, the former placing the perpetrator in the victim's shoes, the latter signaling ownership and responsibility for having crossed a moral line — and wishing to do something about it. Yet what is felt has also to be performed, and convincingly so if the apology is to provide what Goffman terms a “remedial exchange” (Goffman, 1971). Acts of apologizing are in part cultural and in part institutionalized. In the traditional Catholic Church, for example, the apology ritual contains a confession of sins, plus an act of prayer or restoration to the wronged party. It once also involved penances, such as fasts, sexual continence, pilgrimages, or floggings.
Fineman, S. and Gabriel, Y. (2010), "Chapter 6 Apologies and Remorse in Organizations: Saying Sorry — and Meaning it?", Steyaert, C. and Van Looy, B. (Ed.) Relational Practices, Participative Organizing (Advanced Series in Management, Vol. 7), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 103-120. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1877-6361(2010)0000007010Download as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited