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更新时间:2017-4-16 10:09:31 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Why ‘Sorry’ Is Still the Hardest Word

“I’m sorry.” Two simple words, not so simply said.


On Wednesday, the public representatives of two embattled American institutions — United Airlines and the White House — found themselves on national television grappling with a delicate and increasingly common ritual of the corporate and political worlds: the public apology.

周三,美国两个陷入四面楚歌境地的机构——联合航空(United Airlines)和白宫的公关代表,面对全国性电视节目的镜头,勉力应对商界和政治界一个既微妙又日益普遍化的仪式:公开道歉。

Oscar Munoz, United’s chief executive, recalled his “shame” upon seeing a cellphone video, shared by millions of people, of a paying passenger being violently evicted from one of his airline’s flights. Face taut, voice soft, Mr. Munoz’s televised prostration was a far cry from the robotic statement issued by United days earlier, expressing regret for “re-accommodating” a traveler.

联合航空首席执行官奥斯卡·穆尼奥斯(Oscar Munoz)忆及了自己看到一段手机视频时的“羞耻”感——在那段被千百万人分享过的视频中,一名联合航空的付费乘客被人使用暴力逐出了机舱。镜头中的穆尼奥斯表情肃穆、声音温和,那恭顺虔敬的样子,与联合航空几天前发布的一份就“另行安排”一名乘客表达遗憾的生硬声明天差地别。

Around the same time, President Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, was denouncing himself as “reprehensible” for having favorably compared Hitler to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and referring to Nazi death camps as “Holocaust centers,” all while standing at the White House podium.

大约同一时间,特朗普总统的新闻秘书肖恩·斯派塞(Sean Spicer)正在进行自我批评,说自己理应因为站在白宫讲台上宣称叙利亚总统巴沙尔·阿萨德(Bashar al-Assad)连希特勒都不如,并把纳粹死亡集中营说成“毁灭中心”而受到谴责。

The fine art of repentance is a skill taught in business schools and promoted by high-priced consultants. But all kinds of offenders in public life still seem to struggle with the execution. Corporations like BP and Wells Fargo have faced criticism for dawdling responses to cascading crises, while politicians from Bill Clinton to Anthony Weiner have had difficulty admitting to peccadilloes.

忏悔是一门艺术,是一种被商学院的老师传授、被收费高昂的咨询师推销的技巧。但在公共生活中,各种各样的犯错者仍然不太善于使用它。BP和富国银行(Wells Fargo)等公司因为对一连串危机反应迟钝而招致批评,比尔·克林顿(Bill Clinton)、安东尼·D·韦纳(Anthony Weiner)等政治人物都难以承认自己的小过失。

The key to contrition, according to public-relations experts, is projecting sincerity, humanity, and a plain-spoken demeanor — the better to convince a cynical public. And in this age of whipsawing social media, you had better do it fast.


“The head of United should never have been allowed to take three swings at correcting and apologizing for an incident that was on more social media than Kim and Kanye’s wedding,” said Mortimer Matz, a New York consultant who has guided decades’ worth of clients through crises small and large.

“这一事件在社交媒体上的讨论度比卡戴珊和坎耶的婚礼还高,联合航空的负责人就此事认错和道歉时,绝对不该三度出手,”从业数十年、指导客户度过大大小小的危机的咨询师莫蒂梅尔·马茨(Mortimer Matz)说。

United issued several halting statements about the plane episode, which first emerged Monday morning, before Mr. Munoz made his abject appearance on Wednesday on ABC. Mr. Matz said the airline had missed its moment.


“You’ve got to be a fast thinker in the digital age,” said Mr. Matz, who will be 93 in July.


Many companies now take steps to be nimble and responsive when a furor erupts online. Last week, Pepsi took less than 24 hours to apologize and retract a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign that used populist imagery to sell soda. It was a rapid U-turn that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.


This week, Mr. Spicer was quick to recognize the damage done by his ill-considered remarks, which prompted immediate denunciations on Twitter as well as calls for his resignation. He appeared on CNN within hours of his gaffe, while Mr. Munoz waited two days.


Still, Mr. Spicer’s apology came only after his office tried to clarify his remarks with several statements that, while remorseful, did not clearly admit error.


On Wednesday, in a previously scheduled interview at the Newseum in Washington, Mr. Spicer took a new tack: no excuses.


“I made a mistake; there’s no other way to say it,” Mr. Spicer told Greta van Susteren, the MSNBC anchor, his tone notably subdued. “I got into a topic that I shouldn’t have, and I screwed up.” He added: “It really is painful to myself to know that I did something like that.”

“我犯了一个错误,没有其他说法,”斯派塞告诉MSNBC主持人葛丽泰·范·瑟斯特伦(Greta van Susteren),语气格外柔和。“我谈及了一个我不该谈论的话题,我搞砸了。”他还说:“每每想到自己竟然做了这样一件事,我就十分痛苦。”

Mr. Munoz, interviewed on “Good Morning America” on Wednesday, was similarly solemn.

周三上《早安美国》(Good Morning America)时,穆尼奥斯的态度也很郑重。

“That shame and embarrassment was pretty palpable for me,” he told the correspondent Rebecca Jarvis, emotion in his voice. “This can never — will never — happen again on a United Airlines flight. That’s my premise and that’s my promise.” Later on Wednesday, United said it would refund the fares of all passengers on the affected flight.

“我深感羞耻和愧疚,”他颇为动情地告诉记者丽贝卡·贾维斯(Rebecca Jarvis)。“在联合航空的航班上决不能——以后永远不能——再发生这样的事。这是我的基本主张,也是我的承诺。”周三晚些时候,联合航空说它将把机票钱退还给受影响的那趟航班上的所有乘客。

Both Mr. Munoz, who was named “communicator of the year” by PR Week magazine last month, and Mr. Spicer took pains to personalize their apologies. It’s a technique that, conscious or not, is recommended by crisis experts.

不论是于上月被《公关周刊》(PR Week)杂志评为“年度最佳沟通者”的穆尼奥斯,还是斯派塞,都非常努力地做出了个人化的道歉。有意无意间,他们采取了一种受到危机处理专家推荐的技巧。

“That’s on me, I have to fix that,” Mr. Munoz said when asked about the airline policies that led to the violent ejection. Mr. Spicer described his blunder as “mine to own, mine to apologize for, mine to ask forgiveness for.”


That plead-no-contest approach, consultants say, is one of the few ways to start rebuilding trust. The accounting firm PwC, for instance, gave a detailed explanation, and quick apology, for this year’s Oscar best picture fiasco, eventually holding onto its Academy Awards account.


“People want someone to throw the book at,” said Katie Sprehe, a senior director at the communications firm APCO Worldwide.

“人们想要找出一个可以怪罪的人,”传播企业安可顾问公司(APCO Worldwide)的高级主管凯蒂·斯普雷赫(Katie Sprehe)说。

Ms. Sprehe, who studies reputation maintenance, said United had erred by not moving swiftly to mirror its customers’ outrage.


“You need to speak your stakeholders’ language, and coming out with P.R. mumbo jumbo, like ‘re-accommodate,’ is the wrong thing to do,” she said.


Stu Loeser, an adviser to executives in the technology and finance industries, said that a high-profile apology must be considered in context.

给科技和金融行业的一些高管当顾问的斯图·勒泽(Stu Loeser)说,考量一个引人注目的道歉时,绝不能脱离情境。

“Oscar Munoz answers to more than 85,000 employees who want to know that if they were the ones caught in a viral video maelstrom, he’d back them up,” said Mr. Loeser, who was press secretary to former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York. “Sean Spicer ultimately answers to one person and one person only” — Mr. Trump — “someone who sees backing down or apologizing as not only a weakness, but a character flaw.”

“奥斯卡·穆尼奥斯得对8.5万名员工负责任,那些员工想要知道,如果是他们卷入了一场由广为流传的视频引发的轩然大波,他能否给他们以支持,”为纽约市前市长迈克尔·R·布隆伯格(Michael R. Bloomberg)当过新闻秘书的勒泽说。“肖恩·斯派塞最终得对唯一一个人负责”——即特朗普——那个人不仅认为退让或道歉是懦弱的表现,还将其视为性格缺陷。

“In both cases,” Mr. Loeser added, “what might appear to be an irrational series of statements that got you into trouble makes more sense, when you think about who they’re actually answering to.”


Mr. Munoz ended his interview by saying he had no plans to resign. “I was hired to make United better, and I’ve been doing that, and that’s what I’ll continue to do,” he said. Mr. Spicer, asked by Ms. Van Susteren if he enjoyed being press secretary, said he loved it.

穆尼奥斯在采访结束前表示,他没有辞职的打算。“我上任时的使命是打造一个更好的联合航空,我会继续为之奋斗,”他说。斯派塞在被范·瑟斯特伦(Van Susteren)问及是否喜欢当新闻秘书时,说他很喜欢。

“I truly do believe it’s an honor to have this job,” he said. “It is a privilege. And if you don’t believe it, then you shouldn’t be here.”


Whether the apologies outlive the gaffes remains to be seen. Ken Sunshine, who founded the public-relations firm Sunshine Sachs, said he was skeptical. “My rule?” he said. “You get one shot.”

目前尚不清楚,这些道歉能否让事态得到平息。公关公司桑夏恩·萨克斯(Sunshine Sachs)的创始人肯·桑夏恩(Ken Sunshine)说,他对此表示怀疑。“我的法则?”他说。“你得一击即中。”