Saturday, January 20, 2018

How to Apologise Sincerely (Featuring H&M)

With the storm surrounding the H&M debacle, aka "monkey gate"* calming down, I thought it was time to reflect on lessons learned. Whilst I have my own opinions on the company's sense of judgement, what I'd like to focus on is the apology the company's spokesperson issued after news of a bit of marketing gone wrong went viral, and the global fury which ensued. 

The company firstly issued an apology along the lines of "we apologize to all those we have offended". This apology was disingenuous for the following reasons:

- There was no acknowledgement of their actions
- The statement suggests that they were not apologising out of regret for the hurt caused, but simply because an uproar had been stirred. 

After the continued backlash, the company issued a second, and more sincere apology on their website (here), which I believe carried more weight and bore the features of someone who is truly sorry. Here is why.

1. They acknowledged that they should have known better
2. They agreed that people had the right to be upset
3. They acknowledged how dangerous and irresponsible their actions were
4. They described steps they've taken to rectify the situation (in this case it was to remove an offensive image from their website and the product from their stores)
5. They expressed a desire to change their behaviour and the steps they will take to do this
6. They finished with "please accept our humble apologies"

Please consider these points if you have wronged someone and would like to sincerely apologise.  

An apology can be one of the hardest things to do if you carry even a dot of pride in you and difficult to accept if you still nursing an emotional (or physical)  scar. The fact that an apology carries with it the remnants of an offence caused, hurt egos and possibly a broken heart can make saying sorry a bit of a contentious issue. So I do have a degree of respect for people who are able to genuinely accept the apology and move on as much as I have respect to those who can apologise and mean it. 

What are your opinions of apologising after a misunderstanding?  Do you think H&M even deserves the world's forgiveness? Comment below.

*Read more on the story here, here and here



  1. Very good point Madeline, the delivery of an apology can be just as important as the apology itself! I've just headed over to H&M to see their second apology, and I completely agree it has much more weight behind it than their initial one :)

    1. Thank you Gabrielle. Exactly, that is my point! It's all the delivery. Maybe not so much for close friends and family, who may easily forgive you, but definitely if you have offended someone you are not so familiar with, or if you are a spokesperson of a company.

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  3. Great points. You couldn't have said it any better!

    1. Thanks Emete. I am glad you enjoyed reading the post.

  4. You've a point Madeline. The manner in which an apology comes is very important for sure. Honestly I cared about this H&M nonsense. I surely thought it was wrong but, after hearing the boy's mother thoughts about the issue, I didn't care anymore because she didn't care. She said whatever, the world should chill. - So I'm chilling! Lol!!

    1. Haaahaha! Can you imagine? I was wondering why her response was so blasé. Chill my sis, after all she is also chilling.

  5. I'd have been one of the first to jump and point out their Misdemeanor but I learnt something profound from my daughter just before this H&M saga. My daughter goes to a predominantly white school in the country we are in. She came back one day and said "I am Monkey" and I was so curious, I asked if there was anyone calling her that in school. She was just 3 years old at the time and said 'Mr X' calls her that. I knew him to be one of the coolest game teachers but I wasn't taking any chances. I told her to yell back at him that she ain't one. She was naively confused why i was so upset. I even thought of visiting the principal to reiterate my stand for no-racism in school. Having a grudge in my heart, I made sure I came early to pick her and see his actions towards her and found out that there was a game they all played as monkey. White, black, latino, asian were no exception. I felt stupid.This is a teacher whom my daughter heralds his name so much cos he's so cool with her but I let my perception get the best of me. 2nd example, there's a white boy in school she calls a monster naively just cos he wore a monster outfit on halloween and scared her class members. I tell her, he's not a monster. Imagine if he told his mom that a black child and mom always call him a monster, she wont find it funny until i explain how that came about. So I think this H&M thing is all about perception. We are not ruling racism out but if you listened to his mom she didn't see it as a big deal, the black world was going beserk about it. I didn't see it as a big deal too. I guess they apologized quickly cos they didn't even comprehend how something unintentional could cause an uproar and they 'deeply' apologized bcos someone must have sat them down and broken down the perception of the blacks. That's when they are like, "oh crap, now we see it!". This is just my opinion though.

    1. Hi Bubu! Wow, you have loads to say!
      Firstly,both your stories show that sometimes it is a case of misinterpretation and I do agree with you that we are a bit too triggered at times. But kudos to you for observing the dynamics between your daughter and the teacher before jumping down his neck!

      I didn't really want to go into whether H&M was right or wrong in the first place or the implied racism but this is what I would say. Firstly, the issue is much bigger than what the mother thinks. H&M is a global brand and whether she knows it or not she played a big part in reinforcing the perceptions that many ignorant people around the world hold about black people. Also, the fact that it might have been non intentional on H&M's part is even more worrying. Who is working in their head office? Is this white privilege at its finest - the luxury of not having to think about your actions and how it feeds into age old stereotypes? Hey, but at least they said sorry!


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