• Dr. Emi Garzitto

Weaponizing Sorry

Without an active plan of what has been learned or what will change, I am sorry can be used to perpetuate the imbalance of power between two parties. It can be used to silence a partner after abusive behaviour; iI can be used to protect status quo; It can give licence for leadership to maintain status quo.


How do we prevent apologies from becoming the weapons that protect our places of fear, terror and vulnerability?


Restorative Justice is a method of conflict repair that brings together everyone impacted by the harm in a circle setting where everyone is given an opportunity to tell their story of how the conflict impacted them. The circle is led by a trained facilitator who interviews everyone who will participate in the circle prior to the circle to ensure that individuals perpetuating harm are prepared to take responsibility and are prepared to come up with a plan to repair harm.


When I trained in Restorative Justice this simple phrase, 'how can you repair harm' fundamentally changed how I practiced conflict resolution. This consideration has been amplified with trauma response counselling and teaching practices. In building relationship with children impacted by trauma, repair is the name of the game. Teaching and counselling requires you to become an expert at repair.


And now, I am thinking that this emphasis on repair needs to make its way into leadership, executive board rooms, and social media platforms.


Schools still teach children to say "I am sorry" as part of a disciplinary response. Social media is full of I am sorries, apologies and words of remorse. Without an active plan of what has been learned or what will change, I am sorry can be used to perpetuate the imbalance of power between two parties. It can be used to silence a partner after abusive behaviour, it can be used to protect status quo, it can give licence for leadership to maintain status quo.


How do we prevent apologies from becoming the weapons that protect our places of fear, terror and vulnerability?


We can stop the weaponization of sorry by simply teaching and expecting every apology be followed by the question, "And how will you repair the harm?." Otherwise, what prevents the school board, the abusive partner, the CEO or founder from repeating the disrespect again?


Asking the question is simple. Holding yourself accountable to the ugly feelings or behaviours, or acknowledging the dark side and all the innocent spaces it goes to hide, this is the hard work. Culture change needs to happen where everyone is responsible for managing their uncomfortable feelings and repairing harm. Everyone, regardless of status, needs to hold themselves accountable to their internal vulnerabilities.



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