Tag Archives: An apology helps to subtract the insult from the injury

Companies and CEOs rarely admit to wrongdoing,  Lawyers won’t let them, An apology helps to subtract the insult from the injury, thereby minimizing the injured party’s anger toward the offender

Companies and CEOs rarely admit to wrongdoing,  Lawyers won’t let them, An apology helps to subtract the insult from the injury, thereby minimizing the injured party’s anger toward the offender

“How might my behavior be perceived if it appeared in social media feeds, on the news or in tomorrow’s headlines?”...Thrivent “Code of Conduct”

“do unto others as you would have them do unto you”… Matthew 7:12

“An apology helps to subtract the insult from the injury, thereby minimizing the injured party’s anger toward the offender.”…Jonathan R. Cohen, Assistant Professor of Law


From NPR.

“Companies And CEOs Rarely Admit To Wrongdoing”

“SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Here’s a lesson we’ve all probably learned from our parents: When you’re wrong, say you’re sorry; fess up, admit it. These are toddler lessons – “Sesame Street,” “Mister Rogers.” So why do companies and CEOs so rarely admit that they screwed up?

KATHERINE PHILIPS: My cynical answer is, the lawyers won’t let them.

GLINTON: Katherine Philips is a professor of leadership and ethics at Columbia’s business school. She says one of the main reasons companies like JPMorgan don’t usually admit to wrongdoing, is because that will open them to crushing liabilities from plaintiff’s lawyers.

But Philips says there’s another element at play.

PHILIPS: One of the basic kind of psychological needs of human beings is to save face – right? – and to not look stupid, and not look like they don’t know what they’re doing. And people who are in powerful positions, and in charge, oftentimes feel that pressure even more so.”

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Jonathan R. Cohen, Assistant Professor, University of Florida, Frederic G. Levin College of Law.

“Such factors prompt a question: Should lawyers discuss the possibility
of apology with clients more often? In this Article I argue that, in civil
cases, lawyers should discuss with clients the possibility of apology more
often than they now do.11 Not only is apology morally right and socially
beneficial, but in many cases making an apology is in the client’s (defendant’s)
best interest. This is not to say that there are no risks associated
with apology, not the least of which is the fear that an apology can be used
against one’s client in court as an admission of fault. However, when attention
is paid to the context in which an apology is offered and how it is
made, often “safe” apologies posing relatively little risk of increased liability
can be offered. Further, the possible benefits of apology to the client
(defendant) are under-recognized.”

“An apology can be an important step in preventing future antagonistic
behavior, including litigation. When an injury has occurred, there is a root
question to be resolved: Are you (the offender) my friend or my foe? An
apology signals that the offender wishes to establish or re-establish a
friendly relationship. It is a way of saying to the injured party: “I am your
friend, not your foe.” Implicit in this statement is often a second one, “I
want to have constructive future interactions, not destructive ones.” As
one might expect, this approach frequently works: The offender’s apology
often catalyzes the injured party’s forgiveness.”

“Indignity can be a large barrier to compromise, and in many cases, an
apology is needed before other aspects of the dispute, such as monetary
compensation, can be settled. As Goldberg, Green, and Sander write,
“[At] times, an apology alone is insufficient to resolve a dispute, but will
so reduce tension and ease the relationship between the parties that the issues
separating them are resolved with dispatch.”30 This observation has a
public policy corollary to which I shall return later: If we want to encourage the private settlement of, rather than the litigation of, disputes, allowing
parties to make apologies soon after an injury is critical.”

“Apology and forgiveness may also offer paths for spiritual and psychological
growth. By apologizing for, rather than denying or avoiding,
the damage he caused to his neighbor’s window, Hank becomes a better
person. By failing to apologize, Mr. Tiller may no longer be able to look at
himself in the mirror, or, should he meet her again, look Ms. Jones in the
eye. Responsibility and respect, rather than denial and avoidance, lie at
apology’s core. Within many religious and ethical systems, offering an
apology for one’s wrongdoing is an important part of moral behavior, as is
forgiving those who have caused offense.”

“One strategic benefit of an apology is that, if the injured party receives
the apology early enough, she may decide not to sue. For a legal
dispute to occur, injury alone is not sufficient. The injured party must also
decide to bring a legal claim.36 Taking the step to make a legal claim is
often triggered by the injured party’s anger. An early apology can help defuse
that anger and thereby prevent a legal dispute.37 The lesson here is an
important one. While there are risks to making an apology, there are also
risks to not making an apology. Accordingly, even if an apology could be
used against the offender at trial as proof of the offender’s liability (a topic
I will address shortly), in some cases it may still make sense for the offender
to apologize. The economically oriented might describe such an
apology as a gamble that an offender should take if and only if the expected
benefits from doing so, which depend upon the extent to which an
apology would decrease the likelihood of suit, exceed the expected costs,
which depend upon the extent to which an apology would harm the offender’s
case at trial.”

It is easy to see our world the way it is, and lose sight of the way it
should be. When an offender injures another, one would hope that, to the
extent that the offender feels at fault, he would apologize. This is not only
sound morality, it is a good way to prevent protracted disputes. An apology
helps to subtract the insult from the injury, thereby minimizing the injured
party’s anger toward the offender. Without an apology, what might
have been a minor offense may escalate into a major dispute.

While one could argue that lawyers should discuss the possibility of
apology with clients more often because apologizing when one has injured
another is the right thing to do, which is true, or because society would be
better off if more offenders apologized, which is also true, I have not done
so here. Rather, I have argued that lawyers should discuss apology more
often with their clients because often doing so would make their clients
better off. (Discussing apology with clients may make many lawyers
worse off, but that is another matter.) In many cases, the potential benefits
of apology are great, and when care is taken in how the apology is made—
within a “safe” legal mechanism like mediation, and with attention to nuances
such as admitting fault without assuming liability if insurance coverage
is at issue—the risks of apology are small. While our laws could be
and should be reworked to make “safe” apology easier, our existing legal
rules allow apologies to play a much larger role in legal disputes than they
now do.”

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