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Why ‘Sorry” is Still the Hardest Word

From Michael M. Grynbaum at the New York Times:

“I’m sorry.” Two simple words, not so simply said.

On Wednesday, the public representatives of two embattled American institutions — United Airlines and the White House — found themselves on national television grappling with a delicate and increasingly common ritual of the corporate and political worlds: the public apology.

Oscar Munoz, United’s chief executive, recalled his “shame” upon seeing a cellphone video, shared by millions of people, of a paying passenger being violently evicted from one of his airline’s flights. Face taut, voice soft, Mr. Munoz’s televised prostration was a far cry from the robotic statement issued by United days earlier, expressing regret for “re-accommodating” a traveler.

Around the same time, President Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, was denouncing himself as “reprehensible” for having favorably compared Hitler to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and referring to Nazi death camps as “Holocaust centers,” all while standing at the White House podium.

The fine art of repentance is a skill taught in business schools and promoted by high-priced consultants. But all kinds of offenders in public life still seem to struggle with the execution. Corporations like BP and Wells Fargo have faced criticism for dawdling responses to cascading crises, while politicians from Bill Clinton to Anthony Weiner have had difficulty admitting to peccadilloes.

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