Tuesday, October 28, 2008
The Power of Apology
Recently, I have read articles in various media about a movement to deal with litigation, especially medical malpractice cases, by having the party/parties at fault start off very early on by apologizing to the injured party (or their family) and take responsibility. It is a somewhat risky strategy since the potential defendant is exposing himself/herself/itself to liability by making what we call an "admission against interest". Nevertheless, much of the experience with that approach has been very favorable to both sides in such matters. It reduces anger, frustration and litigation. It may also result in parties being satisfied with smaller settlements. There is often a much faster resolution of the issues.
Christine Bauer, who writes the Florida Divorce & Family Law Blog, had an interesting post today about the value, and she would say necessity, of an apology in a divorce case. She wrote about golfer Greg Norman's divorce and how the lack of apology has probably made things worse. Here's what she had to say, including a link to an Australian newspaper.
"There are many reasons for divorce, and sometimes the blame for the divorce falls more on one party than the other. I've said in other blogs that there are two 'divorces' when a party legally terminates their marriage, the legal divorce and the emotional divorce. The legal divorce is sometimes the easier part. I've always thought that in order to get through the emotional divorce you have to accept accountability for your actions, and apologize when you have been the person who has committed some wrong doing. It is the only way that you and your ex-spouse can move on. I know that this is easier said than done, but accepting accountability and apologizing can help you let go of your own anger and help you heal. I hope that the Normans can do that, because it appears there are still some bitter feelings.
"To read the latest about Greg Norman, his affair with Chris Evert and his divorce, see:http://news.theage.com.au/national/norman-never-apologised-about-evert-20081027-59q4.html. "
As you may know, divorces are often very emotional experiences. It is also true that while generally both parties are at fault for the breakup of the marriage, often only one of the parties recognizes his or her underlying mistakes that lead to the breakup. In many ways, it would probably be beneficial to the emotional health of the parties, and the bottom line financially, if one or both of the parties could and would apologize for at least some of the wrongs inflicted on the other party during the marriage.
Caution: Look before you leap. Before making such an apology, please talk with your lawyer. You might also want to talk to a counselor to figure out the best way to make the apology. Be aware that your heart-felt apology could trigger a bad reaction in your spouse. I wouldn't recommend it for every case, but an appropriate apology could be a huge benefit to everyone involved. I have had a number of cases where it would have undoubtedly helped end the divorce sooner, result in a better settlement for both sides and save everyone a lot of money. YMMV