True Apology: A Class Act

A story in this mornings’s Topeka Capitol Journal started me thinking about apology. In my mediation and conflict resolution training, I talk about apology a lot, and one of my favorite quotes is “A true apology involves an exchange of power and shame.”( I’m sorry I have been unable to find who said it, if you know please let me know.) Because of this, it is very difficult for an insecure person to apologize. A true apology makes you vulnerable.

A few months ago, Virgil Peck, a member of the Kansas House of Representatives suggested, he insists in jest, that we should shoot “illegal aliens” from helicopters like we do wild hogs. Under pressure from his party he issued this “apology”: “My statements yesterday were regrettable. Please accept my apology.” Does that sound like an apology to you?

But some public figures are capable of a true apology, and that brings us back to the story in today’s Capitol Journal. Shawnee County Sheriff Dick Barta had publicly criticized the Shawnee County Commission for cutting his budget. Here is his apology:

“Last night I got around to reading the article in the Cap Journal — it caused me a sleepless night. Particularly the headline that states Sheriff: Public Safety Not a Priority For County.  While it’s okay to express my dissatisfaction and frustration in the privacy of the 4 walls in my office (Lord knows I do that enough), to vent my opinion to the media was wrong — nothing good comes from this.

“My actions lacked discipline, were unprofessional and clearly violated our Mission Statement. For this I apologize to you, the citizens and the Commissioners.  (As a 65 year-old, you would think I would know better).”

Now that, my friends, is an apology! I was so impressed, I made it the topic of the blog you are reading and also made a brief video on You Tube.

Thank you, Sheriff Barta for suggesting today’s blog topic and for an example of a true apology I can use in future mediation and conflict resolution trainings.

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