Thursday, October 7, 2010

Apologies Not Accepted

When I was growing up in the midwest, a hostess cooked twice as much food as her guests could eat, and then apologized for whatever she presented or had failed to present: “I don’t know what happened to the corn pudding;” “My cake didn’t rise like usual;” “At least I remembered to take the Jello salad out of the refrigerator this time.”

Dinner began with assurances from the guests about the quality of the corn pudding, was interrupted with the story of the missing salad, and ended with a slight argument over the lightness of the cake. Not leaving much room for conversation about politics, or even the weather.

I attended a presentation this week that followed that pattern. The presenter began with a story about having failed to appear at a presentation the week before, and segued into an apology for having arrived late with disorganized materials. He said several times that if his wife/business partner were there, she would be able to better explain this concept or answer that question.

Why apologize as you’re serving the corn pudding? If the guests had previously loved the hostess’s corn pudding, now they’re forced to reconsider. Maybe it doesn’t taste that good after all, or maybe their taste discrimination is off.

What is the value of telling an audience, in detail, that you forgot to keep an appointment? Are we going to trust anything else you say?

Last month I heard a band member say, halfway through a performance, “and we’ve only practiced twice.” Now the audience is sitting there reassessing the entire evening: “Maybe it was more ragged than we thought.”

1 comment:

  1. Carol:

    The usual male hunting euphemism for this self-sabotage is to "shoot yourself in the foot."