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This American Life podcast. Episode: Get a Spine

This American Life,

5 min read
5 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

An apology can be cathartic for all parties involved, but it takes hard work to get it right.

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Editorial Rating



  • Applicable
  • Eye Opening
  • Engaging


The #metoo movement has exposed countless perpetrators of sexual harassment. Those perpetrators who acknowledged wrongdoing often delivered carefully but vaguely phrased apologies, which rarely came across as sincere. For Act One of a May 2019 episode of radio show and podcast This American Life, one of the show’s producers, Nancy Updike, dissects one heartfelt, public apology that ticked all the boxes of a good apology – including acceptance by the addressee. If you must say sorry for something, first listen to this story.


Apologies often come across as lukewarm: They offer no vindication for the perpetrator and provide no relief for the victim. One specific apology that yielded both can help understand what makes an apology work.

As a 37-year-old producer, Dan Harmon was strongly attracted to 25-year old Megan Ganz, a novice writer working on his TV show. Harmon didn’t confront his feelings nor did he reflect on the inappropriateness of his crush. When his live-in girlfriend asked him whether he had feelings for Ganz, he accused his girlfriend of being jealous and sexist, insisting that he was just fostering a promising young talent. Meanwhile, Ganz let Harmon know that his praise, if given for ulterior motives, wasn’t helping her grow and get better...

About the Podcast

This American Life is a weekly public radio program and podcast produced in collaboration with Chicago Public Media and hosted by Ira Glass. This story’s reporter, Nancy Updike, is one of the show’s producers.

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