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On Apology
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About the Author

Aaron Lazare, M.D., is Chancellor and Dean, and Professor of Psychiatry, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, in Worcester, Massachusetts and Senior Psychiatrist at the Massachusetts General Hospital. He is a leading authority on the psychology of shame and humiliation, and wrote a highly regarded article on apology in Psychology Today that led to appearances on "Oprah," "Talk of the Nation."

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This jewel of a book reveals the many facets of the simple act of apology. Given, there are significant cultural differences in the way humans apologize. "Japanese apologies are more apt to communicate submissiveness, humility, and meekness whereas Americans are more apt to communicate sincerity," writes Lazare, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Under the surface of their differing presentations, however, in spite of their length or even sometimes their complete wordlessness, all true apologies are a kind of offering intended to restore the dignity and self-respect of the offended party, according to the author. An apology can work a miracle, inspiring spontaneous generosity and forgiveness on the part of the offended, whether it is a whole people or a single individual. Drawing on a vast array of literary and real-life examples, such as Agamemnon, George Patton and Arnold Schwarzenegger, from the current pope to the machinist who approached him after a lecture, Lazare lucidly dissects the process of apology: offering an explanation; communicating remorse, shame, humility or sincerity (according to our cultural values); making a gesture of reparation or reconciliation. Among the most moving examples in the book is Lincoln's second inaugural address, in which he apologizes for American slavery : "two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil" enabling some to "wring their bread from the sweat of other men's faces." Just as breathtaking was the apology made by Kevin Gover, an assistant secretary of Indian affairs, for that agency's grave crimes against the Indian people. Lazare succeeds in showing that a true apology is among the most graceful and profound of all human exchanges. When it is sincere, it is not an end but a new beginning. "It is a behavior that requires of both parties an attitude of honesty, generosity, humility, commitment, and courage," he writes. Everybody on earth could benefit from this small but essential book. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

"At a time in our history when there seems to be so much to apologize for-Lazare's book is a wise reminder of how much depends on the sincerity and openheartedness with which we acknowledge that a wrong has been done and begin to work together toward forgiveness."-Francine Prose, Oprah Magazine
"Lazare, a gifted psychiatrist, distinguishes between genuine apologies and statements of sympathy ('I'm sorry for your loss') and pseudo-apologies of the kind often favored by politicians ('I'm sorry if you were offended by anything that was said').... The strength of this book rests in the stories of apologies that Lazare has collected from people, politics, literature and history."-Washington Post Book World
"This unique book is sure to set a reader thinking on many levels, but its ultimate message is the meaning and the magically transformative power of what would seem on the surface to be a simple apology. No one who becomes familiar with Dr. Lazare's perceptive interpretations will forget his sensitivity and wisdom."-Sherwin B. Nuland, MD, author of Lost in America and How We Die
"This jewel of a book reveals the many facets of the seemingly simple act of apology.... Drawing on a vast array of literary and real-life examples, from Agamemnon to George Patton to Arnold Schwarzenegger, from the current pope to the machinist who approached him after a lecture, Lazare lucidly dissects the process of apology.... Everybody on earth could benefit from this small but essential book." -Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Traces the history of the world's most humbling act, exploring everything from Lincoln's apology for slavery to Arnold Schwarzenegger's mea culpa after allegations of breast-groping."-Wall Street Journal
"The culmination of the prestigious career of a man who has dedicated his entire professional life to improving relations between people."-The Forward
"Moving, enlightening, and potentially profoundly healing, On Apology is a timely gift for our era. Aaron Lazare sheds light on one of the most basic of human interactions, and on why people, and even nations, can feel so bad and then so good, on both sides of a true apology. His skillful storytelling and analysis touchingly reveal our common humanity, how we might nurture it, and how it is also sometimes ignored or betrayed. You may find yourself more than once in tears of empathy and uplift."-Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, author of Wherever You Go, There You Are and Coming to Our Senses
"A splendid treatment of a fascinating set of topics that touch all of our lives."-Sissela Bok, PhD, author of Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life and Secrets: On the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation
"A detailed review of the psychology and process of apology...Lazare's contribution touches on basic human emotion and interaction and will be of interest to a wide general audience as well as to those in the healing professions."-Douglas G. Langsley, M.D., former president of the American Psychiatric Association
"Intimacy is healing, and apology is a powerful doorway to intimacy and healing. This is the most important book ever written on the value of apology. Highly recommended." -Dean Ornish, MD, author of Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease and Love and Survival

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