Education / Inspirational / News

Why Some People Don't Apologize and Others Need One

Dr. Mark Goulston is a #1 best selling author of seven books, former hostage negotiation trainer, speaker, trainer, coach and renowned psychiatrist. He is regarded as an internationally renowned expert in the field of empathy and listening. As a result of his rich and diverse background and experiences, Dr. Goulston increases people’s ability to get through to anyone.


Much has been made of Donald Trump's unwillingness or incapacity to apologize in a heartfelt way. And by the way, some would say that Hillary Clinton's apologies don't feel particularly heartfelt either, but pale in comparison to Trump's.

I'm sure you all know of such people in your personal lives and your companies. 

What's going on with such people?

Consider the following:

If a person truly never intends to hurt anyone, but is focused on winning at something (or maybe even fulfilling a sexual impulse) in any way they can that is not illegal and someone is hurt by that person's actions or failure to act, does the first person owe that someone an apology?

Using the examples of both Trump and Clinton, when their intentions are to achieve a goal or objective or to win and people are hurt as collateral damage, is an apology due to those people? 

My belief is that they are owed a heartfelt apology. That means that there needs to be compassion in that apology.  The problem that many goal obsessed people have is that they are able to express regress and say they're sorry in a hollow way, but they are unable to express remorse.

That is because goal driven and ambitious people are often psychologically and emotionally unable to feel remorse. Regret means you are sorry for how something turned out; remorse means you genuinely, deeply and in an ambition halting moment feel pain for the the pain you may have caused, contributed to or led to through collateral damage.

To address those people who can express regret, but not feel remorse, here is why others need a heartfelt, compassion and remorse filled apology.

People who have been hurt, injured, betrayed or traumatized by you, believe that unless you can actually feel the pain you have caused and inflicted upon them (intentionally or unintentionally), they have little trust or confidence that you won't do it again. 

Such people are correct in not believing or trusting that you won't retraumatize them. Why is that?

It's because - alluding to what was said above - if your intention was not to hurt or injure or traumatize but to win in any way you could (that would not get you arrested), you believe that if people get hurt, it's not your fault.

In essence, if people are hurt by you when you don't intend to hurt them and you are just doing whatever you need to win, then their feeling hurt is because they're oversensitive and not that you are being hurtful.

Sometimes, the best way to get a "dyed in the wool" ambitious person to feel the hurt and trauma of others is to experience it themselves.

As an example (and something that deserves an entirely separate blog), we're all too aware on a daily basis of the Black Lives Matter people yelling at law enforcement and local government for treating black lives differently than white lives.  The only way that their message will get through is if white people can feel the powerlessness, fear and rage at being profiled that blacks have felt and continue to feel.  

Whites got a taste of that when the O.J. "Not guilty" verdict came down. Sadly, rather than that event producing empathy (which it did for me, see: "Outing My Inner Racist") from whites towards blacks, it seems to have only added to the divide between them (and as I said, that is the subject for another blog).

In closing I am reminded of a quote attributed to Winston Churchill and others that I have revised to read: "The measure of a civilized society is how it treats those who have hurt it, and those who are hurting in it."

Just how civilized are we?

Epilogue: Can Donald Trump Earn Forgiveness? The 4 H's and 4 R's