While litigation can help plaintiffs recover damages or obtain injunctive relief, there is one type of relief that a judge cannot order one party to bestow upon another: a sincere apology. Mediation, on the other hand, promotes dialogue and helps parties engage in perspective taking. This often leads to recognition of impact of one’s actions on others, acceptance of responsibility, expressions of regret, and even the long-sought-for apology.
As a mediator, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard plaintiffs say, “Listen, the only reason I went to court is that they never even said they were sorry. If they’d told me they felt bad about what happened, we wouldn’t be here now.” Evidently, the power of those three magic words—“I am sorry”—cannot be underestimated.
University of Michigan hospitals put this premise to the test in a two-year study and concluded that apologies may be the best medicine for reducing medical malpractice suits by patients against doctors.
[Update: For a follow up to this story, please read “PHYSICIAN, HEAL THYSELF: Apologies found to reduce medical malpractice litigation“.]