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September 10th, 2009 by Dr. Phil

Apologies Gone Bad

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Now that I’m back in Los Angeles after our exhilarating road trips to New York and Philadelphia, I have to tell you, it was simply an amazing week of live shows. I was so busy, I kind of fell off the news curve a bit. Distracted or not, I couldn’t help but notice a few stories that had me just shaking my head. Along with an abandonment of civility, I wondered if this week should be tagged the “Week of the Bad Apology.”

First, there was Serena Williams ending her semifinals defeat at the U.S. Open with a profanity-laced tirade against an official, then releasing a written statement that sounded far more like an attempt to excuse her behavior. Instead of apologizing to fans, officials, Kim Clijsters (her opponent and the eventual champion), or to anyone else, Williams thanked supporters for “understanding that I am human.” If, and only if, she thinks she was wrong, she might just want to say she is sorry, ask the folks for forgiveness and move on. Serena is a great champion, a great ambassador for the game of tennis and has a long record of being gracious in victory and defeat. She had a bad day; a meltdown over what I think was a questionable call. Admit it, apologize and move on. I admired her before and still do, but if you are sorry, just say so. If not, say that too.

AP Photo/Jason DeCrow

AP Photo/Jason DeCrow

Then came Kanye West’s “apology” for his little stunt he pulled at the VMA’s. Did he go up to Taylor Swift after the show to apologize for his behavior? Oh, no, he didn’t apologize to her at all that night. West did his mea culpa a couple of nights later on Jay Leno’s new show, dressed all in black. “It was rude, period,” mumbled West, looking as distraught as possible. Of course, one couldn’t help but wonder if he was actually just thrilled down to his toes, because he had gotten the entire country talking about him — a man who never ignores a spotlight. By the way, I chatted with Taylor and her mother in the hallway backstage at The View on Tuesday, and they certainly seem to be handling it with class and even some humor. Very nice folks.

AP Photo/Harry Hamburg

AP Photo/Harry Hamburg

And needless to say, there is the continuing hullaballoo over Rep. Joe Wilson, the Republican from South Carolina, who boorishly shouted, “You lie” during President Obama’s health care address to Congress. Depending on which side of the political aisle you’re on, he either hasn’t apologized sincerely enough for his comment, or he has apologized way too much. Wilson (who has announced he’s issuing no more apologies), no doubt, couldn’t be happier over the controversy. After years of obscurity, he’s not only become a huge political celebrity, he’s reportedly raking in giant campaign contributions for his upcoming election.

Now, let me be clear, I’m never going to criticize a politician for speaking out passionately on an issue. And goodness knows, I’m certainly not going to criticize a professional tennis player or musician when they let loose with their particular passions. It’s that passion, after all, that makes them so good at what they do. America is a forgiving country, but you do have to think: When you treat someone badly, it seems like good practice to hunt that person down immediately, look him or her straight in the eyes and apologize — in private. Apologies are not about grandstanding and directing more attention to you. They are about restoring respect. They are about the belief in civility. And these days, when high-profile outbursts are seemingly becoming the norm in our society, a little more civility is something we all definitely could use.

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62 Responses to “Apologies Gone Bad”

  1. Kim says:

    Dr. Phil,

    I think you are well positioned to help turn this around, if indeed it’s not already too late. Your popular phrase – you teach people how to treat you – is what I see as part of the problem, besides that of self-centeredness, etc. The media and even sometimes peers, actually are REWARDING those who behave badly by publicizing such behavior and comments. Look how much more media coverage folks get the longer it takes for them to apologize! It translates into true cash benefits NOT to apologize, so where’s the incentive to do it? Being right-fighters is also part of the problem.

    I think this may well be the root of many of the problems you address on your show. Shock – and – awe, self-first, etc. has multiplied exponentially – right along with our stress levels!

    Perhaps you can launch some sort of campaign FOR honesty & being considerate and AGAINST lies and rudenss. If Glen Beck can effect an honesty in DC campaign, why not one for honesty & civility among Americans? It would solve so much and improve the quality of life for all. As America – it can even affect the world!

    I have Long thought there should be laws against profiting from wrong-doing of any type. If criminals, etc. write books, sell movie rights, etc. – all proceeds should go directly towards paying for the criminal justice system, perhaps allowing for a VERY modest living allowance – IF the criminal truly cannot work. Since we know we can’t stop the media from placing cameras and microphones in front of these people, this is the only other way I’m able to think of to improve this situation.

    Hooray to you for ’speaking without fear’ on this and so many topics!

  2. @Meta… Do I think we can do it, make courtesy politically correct? I think we can, but, I think we have to act now before it gets any worse. It seems to be a growing disease.

    As hard as I try, I still find myself sometimes snapping and reacting badly to irritating circumstances (usually related to walking with my dogs and clients’ dogs, being out in the streets of NYC every day can be like walking through a mine-field of ill-mannered self-entitled people). And whenever I react badly, I feel bad about myself, I actually feel physically ill, have a viceral response to my own bad behavior.

    I hope Dr. Phil and his producers take this idea into serious consideration, to launch a courtesy campaign, take us into a new age of enlightenment instead of leaving us to sink in this age of entitlement. I just see it getting worse, not better, unless good people take a stand to make courtesy, consideration of others more visible, more fashionable, politically correct than it has become in the last decade.

    And I have to say Meta, every time I read a response of yours here, I’m calmed and encouraged and I too sleep a little better. Thank you.

    Dr. Phil, help us! there are good polite people left in America and we need a voice and visibility.

  3. PS to Meta…. did you know, Sept 21 is World Gratitude and Peace Day? In that spirit, thank you for being kind and for thinking of others.

  4. Dawn S says:

    Once again you hit the nail on the head!

  5. Metta Hansen says:

    You did it again. Thank you. I agree that sooner is better. What I see in the media, and the world I live in, is that it’s cool to be hard, cold, and mean. Being cool matters more to some people than almost anything else. The people who could do the most good if we could reach them are parents, young people, and most definately celebrities. If they modeled kindness, consideration, and responsibility (which includes apologizing sincerely when you’ve been wrong), children, and celebrity followers might see that there’s a better way to be cool. Manners are cool. Honesty, personal responsibility, kindness etc are cool.

    It is worse than we have said. It goes beyond rude. It goes beyond insincere apologies. You mentioned the sense of entitlement. It’s in full bloom.
    many people feel entitled to anything you have.

    In the past 2 years, in the hospital after cancer surgery, 2 nurses stole $200.00. The mechanic to whom I took my van stole it! (I had to walk to my cancer treatment (all summer in 120 degree heat). People scour my yard regularly. They take what they want and leave their garbage and cigarette butts.

    I asked a cancer nonprofit for help packing to move. They came with 5 people and a big truck and made off with $1,000.00 worth of belongings and all my hardware, gardening hand tools, precious keepsakes, and collectibles. The sheriff refused to pursue it because I was supposed to have watched all 5 of them in 5 different places, while trying to do my share despite being horribly sick. The sheriff’s decision cost me an additional $500.00. 6 months later, the head of the nonprofit called to say she had been sick, was broke, and did I need any more help! (Can I come and steal some more?)

    My so-called friend of 30 years, instead of managing a small trust account for me, either wasted or stole $600.00 of it. That ended my summer plans: the only chance I had of getting back home. I was forced by circumstances to move to the desert. Back home (San Jose area), a friend would have found me a place to hide a tent to call home. I planned to get cancer care and many other medical essentials that I can’t get here. I needed to start ASAP. I now have nowhere to sleep in summer or winter and can’t reasonably expect to live more than a few years (based on my health history-that’s another story). Her action effectively took away some of those years. And despite that it’s my money, I don’t know where it is, or even if it is, nor have I seen a single statement or receipt. She refuses to send them. She managed to get my license suspended. (long story)

    I know of at least 5 people who have stolen medications from me.

    I am allergic (tested by a dr.) to all fragrances. After 6 years of begging, the county recently gave me a little help in the house (none after the surgery though). Until July, I lived those 2 years on one meal a week. The first helper stole what he could. The second, despite that I advertised for a fragrance-free helper, agreed not to use perfumes to get the job, but no way was she going to do that once she had the job. She considered it an unreasonable request. My reactions are serious. With a severely damaged immune system (another story), every exposure to allergens is a nail in my coffin. Then, she stole all the fragrance-free shampoo and conditioner I had! That stuff is almost impossible to find. She also stole $100.00 and went through my medications. The 2nd week, she rarely showed up. Until her time card came. She then pounded hard and relentlessly on my door, woke me up and ORDERED me to let her in. I didn’t. She was drenched in perfume. She had 3 days, but handed me a fraudulent timecard to sign right now (she didn’t want me to see it–one look was all I needed to see she lied). I said I had to read it first. The next day she arrived with the sheriff. She told him I had massive quantities of marijuana and wouldn’t give her paper back. The sheriff never asked for my side of the story. He grabbed the paper from my hand while I was telling him I needed to write a note on it to payroll (since I wasn’t given the chance to correct the hours). Despite calling every involved government agency to report her, they paid her. Take note America. Those were your tax dollars she stole.

    I know well all the feelings you describe. If you really think you were out-of-line, well, I don’t. I just hate that it hurts you. It hurts me too in the same way. Everyone has their limits. I have thoughts I never thought I would entertain.
    Sometimes I will call someone on rude behavior. Standing is really hard on me. If someone cuts me off in line, I say “I was next.” We don’t have to ignore bad behavior. It is not worth our health. But it’s so pervasive that just responding to each insult would be a full-time job. I keep to myself as much as possible. But when I am out, I still do as I said in my first post, despite it all. I also do it on the phone. The key is sincerity.

    I started this because I knew homelessness, hunger, and suffering from experience. I also had sometimes complained about bad service, and thought that I should then also commend good service (which always gives me, the employee, and the supervisor a lift. They’re always pleasantly surprised).

    Thanks for telling me about Sept. 21: World Gratitude and Peace Day. I never heard of it. I can now count on my fingers the number of people I know who are kind. I will use that day to tell them how much I appreciate them. I will tell you now, since I don’t know how we can stay in touch, but I’d like to. Thank you for lifting me up twice now. My life is pretty bad, so you did a lot. :) . If we can get this off the ground, we will surely meet. That will be a happy day.

  6. Metta Hansen says:

    I have trouble keeping track of time. Sept 21 was yesterday, so I’ll make my gratitude calls tomorrow. For now, it’s an opportunity to say thanks again to you. You are worthy of respect. Your head is in the right place. That is so refreshing. :)

    @Dr. Phil
    It seems there are many of us who would like to see America become a civil country. Including you. I really hope you will help us get the word out. I think we all know that things like this take time, but with your help, so many could be reached. I think we can do it with enough media exposure.

  7. Thank you also Meta. You’re welcome to follow me on twitter (if you tweet). I’m pretty easy to find online with my name AuntChristine (auntchristine) because that’s been my tag for many years, even before the WWW, as a pet sitter. And I blog too at http://www.neighborhooddogs.blogspot.com.

    I just missed the first 5 min. of today’s show (9/23) because I was delivering a dog nephew to his owner! Something about a Mom punching a man who told her to quiet her son? I know Dr. Phil was talking about civility…what did he say please?

  8. Metta Hansen says:

    Rats. I was busy writing my last blog here during the show. I wonder if we can get a copy of that show? If anyone else knows, please let us know. Would it be on his website? Now I really wish I had watched. But this is important. Every movement starts with one person. Dr. Phil gets credit for inadvertently starting it. That got me started. Now you. That’s 3 in a week. It can grow exponentially, and if we stay tenacious it will. Really glad to know I can reach you. You have been tweeted. I have another serious bite too. Will work on that.



  9. jayne says:

    This an appoligize that I have had to make and it slapped me back in the face less than a year later. I was faced with making myselfe get along with my ex an his wife for the sake of our 15 year old and she was playing us and with no communication between either of us. I was very scared that my youngest child would follow someone for a wrong decision and that happens in an instant.
    I have not ever bothered with their father, he just wanted me to deal with the
    18 year old he hooked up with an than married an their was no was I was going to deal with a mom to my kids thats my daughters age or little older. I wanted the father to be a father, so for many years I just havn’t bothered lot less stress.
    I appoligized to both of them and we met at a pizza hut and discussed this child of ours and for a few, did I say afew months and we never speak. We havn’t had a reason ( thank god). I told my childred how sorry I did not get along an we fought an I am sure I have bad mouthed him. I do feel bad about that an told them so. Now at the present time Dad an step mom are divorcing. I have tried to get with the father and dicussed the 16 year old. Still the same no call back an no help with the kids that only took twice now I won’t bother him an keep it to myself. I am use to living life myself.

    Next subject I watched wednesday 7 show the lady left her kids to write book
    I think a lot of women should let that dad have the kids when he thinks he can do it an wants to fight for custedy 1 save on lawyers 2 he will want you to give him a break an take the kids soon after reality hits him………….I sure would of done that. The woman would just be there when the children need her. Than dad can be the worst parent in the kids eyes. If a lot more females would give the kids to them when they want to fight for them and set up your time with the kids and use that time to enjoy enjoy time with them. Not having to do the daily chores an raise the kids etc….. I never got to have game nite all together with them to busy 2 different sports and no help with rides or much else. I so wished he had custedy all this time an not me. good luck to me an my 16 yr old I pray she stays smart on her decissions.

  10. Evelyn Gilbert says:

    Dr. Phil, Is there any way your show will be back on in the Houston TX area? I watched every day and so many times it really helped me, by listening to advice you would give to others. a lot of times, I needed the same thing. Please reply.

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