NEW YORK – A good and effective apology is one that will resonate over time, says publicist Matthew Hiltzik, who has coached many high-profile clients through public apologies. This includes Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte after he allegedly lied about being robbed at gunpoint in Rio.
During a Happy Hour event a month before Yom Kippur, Hiltzik shared his advice with dozens of young adults of the Manhattan Jewish Experience (MJE) who gathered to mingle and learn how to “make their sorrys mean more” ahead of the Day of Atonement.
“I think the most important thing about an apology is when it’s one where you pause and understand the audiences that matter to you,” Hiltzik told The Jerusalem Post
at the event. “It’s something that considers audiences, the substance of the issues that you are addressing, the timing and the potential ramification for the future by acknowledging that you did something wrong.”
According to Hiltzik, people often focus too much on alleviating the shortterm tensions caused by an altercation or incident rather than considering the long-term consequences of how they apologize.
“If you are always apologizing, you end up losing everything you stand for because you are essentially apologizing for everything you are,” he said.
Hiltzik advised to sometimes hold off on apologizing and finding a time at which the target audience will take the gesture more seriously.
“I think that a well-thought-out, substantive, meaningful apology is a sign of strength because it demonstrates an understanding of others, their concerns, their priorities, and it also demonstrates your values in respecting other people and why this action made a difference,” he told the Post
While crafting one’s apology, especially a public one, requires much thought, it also allows for better relationship-building, he said.
MJE’s Rabbi Mark Wildes believes that the importance of apologizing on Yom Kippur goes beyond just respecting the religious commandment.
“It’s never fun owning up and taking responsibility, but it does feel really good when you do it right, and I think people are looking for these types of things. Fun is short-lived, but the real lasting stuff are the things that build relationships,” he told the Post
“You can’t stay in a relationship without apologizing,” he continued. “It’s extremely important that we have some time of the year when we think about who we offended, who we wronged. Did I do right by them or did I just kind of hope that it would go away?” The tradition, Wildes said, is all the more significant, as relationship-building has become a lot more complicated for young people today.
“It’s because of the Internet and technology, and we are distracted. It’s hard to stay focused on other people long enough. I don’t know if this generation is less apologetic than the previous one; I think this generation is just more strained with relationship-building, which is why apologies are that much more meaningful today,” he said.
“We are hard-wired to defend ourselves and save face, and we have defense mechanisms that maintain our own sense of self,” he continued. “If something goes wrong, in a sense we are predisposed to trying to present things in a way that does not implicate ourselves. We feel better about ourselves initially, but then our relationships worsen.”
In speaking to the dozens of young Jews who attended the event, nicknamed “apology fest,” Wildes also explained that there are scientifically proven physiological benefits to the act of apologizing.
“Heart rate slows down, blood pressure goes down, people feel calmer,” he said.
“Mentally, it’s incredibly therapeutic.”
Amanda Winn, who regularly attends MJE events, which are often aimed at exploring Jewish religious concept in a modern light, said that lately she has been trying to “apologize more sincerely.”
“I’m the type of person that you’d say apologizes too much, so I’ve been trying to stand up for myself more,” she told the Post
She added that Hiltzik’s presentation made her think more about the importance of saying the words “I am sorry.”
“My mom always says this: ‘You don’t necessarily know the background of everyone; you don’t know if they’re having a bad day; you don’t know if, God forbid, something bad happened in their life,’” she said.
“People make mistakes. We’re only human. We are not perfect. But if you say something insensitive, you have to think about these things. It’s the right thing to do,” Winn said.