Most people forget the third part

Panacea comment for Financial Advisers and Paraplanners

20 Jun 2017

Most people forget the third part

We started the week with this statement from the Lloyds Banking Group on behalf of HBOS:

‘Our customers’ safety is of paramount importance to us’: 

‘We have a clear policy that if a customer says that they are considering taking their own life that we must take the statement seriously and take action to protect them. 

Whatever your view of Noel Edmunds and Mr. Blobby may be, I cannot think of any example in my forty plus years in the financial services industry where any bank has ever made such a statement.

It is made worse in my humble opinion because any organisation that makes such a statement, especially via a spokesman, never actually means it. They are so detached from the pain they have caused and in apologising for that, their words simply make matters worse.

Lloyds is not alone, in fact they are quite low down the scale of stock messages of faux regret and condolence.

This month has seen a positive 12 bore load from politicians in particular and if we look back over the year, they have been supported by fading celebs needing a publicity boost, trade unions, regulators various, civic leaders, minority interest groups, broadcasters (BBC) and others of the so called society ‘elites’.

Top phrases used to sound good but little else at the moment are, in no particular order:

  • “Our hearts/ minds/ sympathies go out those affected by this…(fill in the blank)”.

This is a hijacking of an equally irrelevant use of the words, originally used by the military to describe a counter-insurgency policy of various governments. Essentially focused on “community outreach” in times of good versus evil conflict, it is now used in reference to emotional and intellectual support or commitment by those in authority to assuage them from their own inactions that probably caused the very thing they are ‘reaching out to’ empathise with.

Why bother with this type of statement, after hearing it so many times this month alone, from so many, it is devalued to the point of having no meaning at all other than a useful intro line to demonstrate faux empathy that is just not genuinely there.

  • “Lessons will be learned”:

This is sometimes linked to the word “Learnings”. NATO has a great definition of this. “The purpose of a Lessons Learned procedure is to learn efficiently from experience and to provide validated justifications for amending the existing way of doing things, in order to improve performance, both during the course of an operation and for subsequent operations. This requires lessons to be meaningful and for them to be brought to the attention of the appropriate authority able and responsible for dealing with them. It also requires the chain of command to have a clear understanding of how to prioritise lessons and how to staff them.”

A perfectly clear definition, but the reality in UKplc today is that the statement made and the realities of it are travelling in polar opposite directions.

Lessons are never learned, never implemented and personal responsibility is never fully identified, defined or the guilty made accountable.

“I deeply regret”:

A very popular phrase in touchy, feely UKplc, it is a very useful phrase in the apologising person’s verbal arsenal because it doesn’t require you to admit you did anything wrong, at all, ever. In fact the use of this phrase would simply be another way of saying I really could not give a…SHoneT.

“Mistakes were made”:

For those who feel that “I deeply regret” is admitting just a little bit too much responsibility, they can ‘upgrade’ at no extra reputational cost to “mistakes were made.” This is the zenith level of non-apology, used at the very highest levels of government. Prime Ministers like Tony Blair, David Cameron and now Theresa May have used the words. These are seen as better than “I deeply regret” by not only leaving it open whether they are actually the culprits, but also existentially questioning whether there even is a mistake?

I saw a great definition of ‘sorry’ recently. It said that “Being genuinely sorry is actually remembering what the hell you did and having enough genuine regret to sincerely endeavour not to repeat the very thing you know has caused distress or even great hurt”.

The source went on to note,When someone’s on your back like Zorro to apologise to you, or for you to accept the apology, they don’t actually mean they’re sorry. 

What they really mean is :“Look, can you hurry the ‘f…’ up and accept my apology so I can stop feeling bad about it? You perceiving me as (wronging/hurting/abusing/whatever- insert again where appropriate) is terribly inconvenient and my ego doesn’t like the pinch of reality, so if you don’t mind, get a shuffle on, accept my apology and let’s move on so I can slam my palm down on the Reset Button.

It would be great if those making these vacuous public pronouncements could come up with an original, heartfelt message of their own, one that sums up how they genuinely feel and not statements recycled to simply sound good, boost their own fading profiles or to kill off a reputational firestorm.

Better still, just shut up.

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