She called me unexpectedly one day. I was busy at work and was stunned when I answered the phone. We had not talked in 10-15 years. Things were strained between us. Actually, not friendly at all. I went into a private room and listened. She was seeking information about a mutual friend. The conversation was cordial. But there was also a certain awkwardness. I had hurt this woman in the past. Said things I shouldn't have said. Halfway through the conversation I stopped and said: "I'm sorry. I know I hurt you." Silence. Then quiet crying on the other end of the phone line. She sniffled and said "Thank you."
There has been quite a bit of public feuding in the past month among public figures. Hannity vs Kimmel. Laura Ingraham vs David Hogg. Tony Robbins vs the #MeToo movement. Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. Nasty words launched back and forth on both ends. When the barbs finally got worn out, someone offers an apology. Of sorts. But they are not accepted.
Why have we stopped accepting apologies?
"Apologies work if you can trust a person's sincerity," said Tim Dakin, a family counselor in Sacramento, Calif.
David Hogg didn't accept Laura Ingraham's Tweeted apology about "In the spirit of Holy Week" to be sincere. He said she did it only because she was losing advertisers. Sean Hannity accepted Jimmy Kimmel's but tempered it by calling it a "forced" apology.
"For apologies to be potent, they have to be personal," said Dakin.
Indeed, psychologists even have guidelines for how to know whether you should accept an apology.
* An authentic apology should be direct and heartfelt. The person should acknowledge what they did was wrong and apologize.
* Saying "I'm sorry but you made me do it" is insincere and doesn't cut it.
* When accepting an apology, don't just say "It's okay." Thank the person but articulate how their actions hurt your feelings.
These guidelines probably would not work with high-profile personalities wanting to promote their brand and wanting to get the last word. They would have to swallow their egos to issue an authentic apology.
"A true apology is a relationship repair,' said Dakin. If you actually want to repair a relationship, it's not enough to say you're sorry. You have to explain why you're sorry and apologize and acknowledge the hurt you've cause, he said.
In these celebrity feuds, a sincere apology may be hard to find. But in your real life, like me, they can go a long way to restoring a relationship.