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Over the years, I have read several of Dr. Harriet Lerner’s “Dance” books (The Dance of Anger, Dance of Connection, Dance of Fear) and always appreciated her straightforward style and use of real-life examples to demonstrate the concepts she wanted to convey. When I read that she had a new book, Why Won’t You Apologize?, I was happy to write this honest review in exchange for an advance copy from Touchstone and NetGalley.

Dr. Lerner has been studying apologies—and why some people won’t give them—for more than twenty years, and has written a terrific book describing how much power a simple apology has, and there may be hope for healing even when the hurt that has been either inflicted or received is far from simple.

Sometimes, a botched apology can even deepen the original pain, and Dr. Lerner explains clearly the needs of a person who is hurting and may be dealing with someone who won’t apologize, or tell the truth, or feel remorse.

Along the way, she addresses both the non-apologizers and the over-apologizers, and looks at why it sometimes seems like the people who do the most harmful things are the ones who are least able to own up. She works to help people who have been hurt resist pressure to forgive too easily and she “challenges the popular notion that forgiveness is the only path to peace of mind.”

Early into my reading of this book, I was reminded how much I appreciate her clear and straightforward approach, as she states her belief that “A good apology includes the words “I’m sorry” without “ifs,” “buts,” or any manner of undoings, obfuscations, and the like.”

There are twelve chapters in the book, each packed with clear and specific examples to facilitate understanding of her message. Some of the chapter headings include:

  • Five Ways to Ruin an Apology (this one includes the pesky if, the “non-apology,” and others)
  • Apologizing Under Fire: How to Handle Big-Time Criticism
  • How—And Whether—to Accept the Olive Branch

Dr. Lerner’s website lists Brené Brown, Anne Lamott, and Gloria Steinem among her advocates. Suddenly, the fact that her books always resonate with me makes perfect sense!

As I sat down to write this, I was listening to a news program about the likelihood that a politician might be offered a cabinet post if he would just issue a public apology for the things he said during the Presidential campaign. It made me shake my head and consider what might happen if the parties involved would read this book! Five stars, for a self-help book with popular appeal that will help many people.

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