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September 18th, 2009
11:08 AM ET
September 18th, 2009
10:34 AM ET

The Ethics of Apologies

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Bruce Weinstein, PhD
BusinessWeek.com

These few simple rules will help you give apologies meaningfully and accept them gracefully

Every day, it seems, we learn of an apology from a prominent executive, celebrity, or political figure in response to an indiscretion of some sort. Those in the public eye have an unfortunate tendency to apologize only after they have been found with a hand in the cookie jar. When this happens, it is only natural for a skeptical (or cynical) public to wonder, "Are they apologizing for their conduct, or simply because they were caught?"

To make matters worse, the wrongdoer will often use the passive voice in his or her apology: "Mistakes were made," rather than "I made a mistake." It is more comfortable to use the passive voice here, but doing so relinquishes any sense of personal responsibility. It is a non-apology and is not very meaningful.

Of course, it's not just those in the public eye who readily offer an insincere "I'm sorry." You probably have at least one such person in your life. It may be the person working for you who spends too much time making personal phone calls or surfing the Web while at the office. Perhaps it is a friend who consistently cancels lunch dates at the last minute. Maybe you even find yourself offering apologies more than you should. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the need for the apology, and whether you need to make one or feel you deserve one, the following questions arise:

• What makes an apology meaningful?

• Does apologizing make us look weak?

• How should you respond if you can't avoid repeating the mistake?

• What may we rightfully expect from someone who apologizes to us?

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Filed under: 360° Radar
September 18th, 2009
09:59 AM ET

Dear President Obama #242: “In the Spin Cycle"

Reporter's Note: President Obama asked Americans for advice on how to run the country when he took the oath. I have responded with a letter to the White House every day since. It’s my own way of being patriotic…and staying employed.

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

When our children were very little, and they started bringing up too many problems, ideas, plans, or projects too quickly for us to process them, my wife and I used to say, “Uh oh, they’ve got us spinning!” What we meant was that the agenda of the day was being hijacked by a flurry of little hands pushing the merry-go-round so fast that we simply could not focus on any one thing and we were losing control.

It was subtle, if a hurricane can ever be called such. Our girls were never big on demanding things. They were generally well behaved. But as my father used to say, while adults are dealing with a world of problems, a kid often has only one thing on his or her mind. That allows that little person to focus his or her entire, munchkin-like being on that goal alone. You are thinking “work, mortgage, schedules, messages to be returned, a lawn to be mowed, a gift to be bought, a co-worker to be soothed” and the tiny dynamo at your side is thinking only “ice cream!” over and over and over again.

That is what I think is happening to your Presidency right now. You are out there still trying to deal with health care, but dozens of little hands are spinning the public debate in other directions: Afghanistan, missile shields, misbehaving celebrities, race relations, TV appearances, tea parties…on and on it goes.

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September 18th, 2009
07:00 AM ET

Sound Off: Your comments 9/17/2009

Editor's Note: The “Keeping Them Honest” segment on Wednesday night’s AC360° was very popular. Reporter Drew Griffin showed you the facts on how $32 billion in stimulus funds is being used to upgrade two remote and seldom used border crossings in northern Montana. Many of you were thrilled to see this kind of reporting and asked that more stories of stimulus money abuse be shown. We also received continued response on health care reform issues, including some from international viewers who voiced that there is too much “nonsense” being displayed over reform in the U.S. Take a look below at some of the comments we heard, and we’d love to hear what you have to say:

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I saw the story on the stimulus money at the Canadian border. Keep doing stories like that uncovering abuses with stimulus money. Stay on top of the abuse in the system and with our hard earned tax dollars…I will keep on watching if you will keep reporting real news.

I was watching your segment about $15 million being spent on upgrades to one border crossings in Montana and was disgusted. The Sacramento Sheriff's Department in California just laid off 132 full-time paid deputies, demoted around 50 supervisors, cut detective levels by 50%, cut numerous specialty units because our budget was cut by our local board of supervisors. Our local economy has been devastated by the real estate disaster and the state economy has helped punch more holes in an already weak budget. Our department was unable to obtain much needed stimulus money through the COPS program and now our staffing levels have been rolled back to 15 years ago…

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Filed under: Behind The Scenes
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