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Bernadine Oliver-Kerby: Sorry doesn't have to be the hardest word

Bernadine Oliver-Kerby,
Publish Date
Wed, 22 Feb 2017, 7:46AM
Bernadine says Kiwis need to learn to say sorry (Photosport).
Bernadine says Kiwis need to learn to say sorry (Photosport).

Bernadine Oliver-Kerby: Sorry doesn't have to be the hardest word

Bernadine Oliver-Kerby,
Publish Date
Wed, 22 Feb 2017, 7:46AM

A friend called me the day Dan Carter was busted for drink driving.  

I was interested to hear her take on the scandal and expected a typical post mortem with us cobbling together all sorts of possible scenarios on the whys and wherefores. 

Her simple summation of the drama. "Kiwis need to learn how to say sorry".

I paused. 

No theories and analysis on if he'd get in trouble with the Club, the Mrs, or get off lightly because he was a former All Black.  A handsome, popular, butter-wouldn't-melt in the mouth former All Black.

She continued.  "Kiwis don't know how to say sorry."

Exhibit A.  Dan Carter, had taken a terrible situation and effectively - shut it down. 

For those with children in primary school, you may be familiar with the "Muck up, own up, put it right" mantra. 

It's the complete antithesis of the B.E.D complex of "Blame, Excuse, Denial" which also features heavily in junior school of what NOT to do.

Dan Carter proved a straight A student in subject of the former.

He stuffed up, check.  Owned up, check. Apologised, check.  Case pretty much closed. 

By front footing it the media would indeed struggle to extrapolate, accentuate and incubate the story any further. 

Our telephone conversation went on to discuss  various examples of how 'fessing up  and taking ownership early in the public arena can not only win the courage award but also the sympathy vote. 

Owning up to any misdemeanour early and genuinely can often see a marauding blood-thirsty public retreat.. put down their weapons and in some cases turn on themselves as they end up defending the offender!  

Who can forget the doe eyed and sheepish Marc Ellis who fronted the media in 2005 after being caught buying ecstasy tablets.  

He apologised to his parents, family, friends and supporters. He'd made an "error of judgement and was genuinely sorry."

The former All Black, sprung for drugs, walking away smelling of roses and newborn babies.

So why are we so bad at doing a Dan Carter? 

My friend tells me that it's because of one simple word.  


The apology that has the excess baggage of the word "but" tagging along.

Ahh... the apology without really saying sorry.

I think she meant the kind of apology that suggests there was no racism at all..  after all the woman was barely coffee coloured for goodness sake.

The list of high-profile apologies is extensive and being human, it's a list that will sadly never be in decline.

Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Hugh Grant... all VIPs in the Apology Hall of Fame.

For some, the apology came to fruition purely because the offending party got caught.  Yet regardless of guilt, it's often how you manage the apology that interestingly will determine how unscathed you'll come out at the other end.

Good ethics or good management?  I had yet to decide as I continued to percolate whether I'd scribe a piece on the art of the apology when the phone rang again.

It was the clincher.  The Dan double whammy had been dealt.

"Land Rover have dropped Dan Carter... you've got to write a piece."

Her voice oozed news that DC had just proven himself worthy of a Nobel Peace prize.

Indeed the former Number 10's offensive game appeared just as impressive off the field.

His statement read:

"Not surprisingly, Land Rover have ended their relationship with me.  I understand completely and I am disappointed I put them in this position"

Masterfully engineered and executed.  It sounded like he was actually praising them for axing him.

Elton John famously penned the song "Sorry seems to be the hardest word".

I think Dan Carter has proven it doesn't have to be. 

Drink driving.  Dumb decision, clever clean-up.

Land Rover -  call me.

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