Our Growing Addiction to Public Apologies…and Soap Operas:

A Google News search for the keyword 'apology' would list thousands of business, sports, entertainment and political stories written by distinguished journalist and covered by prominent media outlets. The most fascinating thing about trends for public apologies is that the number of mea culpas is steadily escalating. What is it about apologies that we find so interesting and absorbing to us, and so important to the press?

We at PA believe that public apologies are intriguing because they raise captivating questions about our own principles and standards of morality and ethics, our own hopes and wishes to be forgiven for our transgressions and mistakes, and our interest in figuring out how to apoligize well when we have to (or how to avoid doing it really poorly when the time comes). It's as if we live vicariously through those who are faced with the burden of coming clean when challenged to correct their mistake. It's the secular version of the Catholic confessional, except in these cases the punishment is often more painful than having to recite ten Hail Mary's or a dozen Our Fathers.

Apologies are also intriguing because it seems as though everyone -- Olympic athletes and other sports heroes, movie stars, CEOs of major corporations, senior political officials, and even a Queen -- is compelled at some point in time to face the music. And we are captivated by these apologies because, in some small way, we get to witness the spectacle of an accomplished, rich, powerful individual at a low point in their lives. Their pain makes our world seem a little more appealing by contrast, if only very briefly. It usually doesn’t last, and once the PR machine kicks in and an effective enough apology is delivered to manage the crisis, their lives go back to being a little more impressive and ours a little more regular. But for that brief, fleeting moment in time it was better to be us than them. The same principle explains the enormous appeal of soap operas -- public apologies are like micro-soap operas for people who don’t have the time to watch a lot of tv.