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July 5, 2012
The Real Issue
A Gracious Apology, Even If You're Right
by Cyndie Swindlehurst


I have a new baby. Two sisters in my ward separately offered to photograph him free of charge so they could build their photography portfolios. Each sister said I would be doing her a favor if I allowed her to photograph my newborn. I agreed and made an appointment with each sister.

Unfortunately, I did not anticipate that Sister A thought she was getting exclusive rights to photograph the baby. When the photos from the session with Sister B went up on Facebook, Sister A was very upset. She sent me an unpleasant email to cancel our appointment, claiming that I was hurting her business by letting another photographer take pictures of the baby.

Then she blogged about how hurt she was and how deceived she had been in my character -- although she didn't mention my name. I feel like other sisters in the ward have been treating me differently since this all happened, and I think she is talking about me.

My husband says I have every right to have the baby photographed as many times as I like and that I should not back down or apologize to Sister A. But I feel awful about the ruckus this has caused. Sister A is so upset!


If Sister A were not a businesswoman who had approached you with a business proposition, I might see her side a little better. But she is in business, and you cannot be blamed for taking her at her word that you would be doing her a favor by allowing her to promote her business with photographs of your newborn. Nor can you be blamed for not realizing that she would want exclusive rights.

If Sister A wanted exclusive rights to photograph your baby for her portfolio, she had the duty to make that part of the original agreement. Although, given her reaction, you may want to mention it in the future should this situation arise again.

(By the way, the fact that a baby was the subject of the photographs is immaterial. The problem and response would be the same if the subject were a cat, a car, or an azalea bush.)

Further, she ought to be ashamed of her response. Businesspersons should not send nastygrams to potential clients. If she had decided not to photograph your baby after seeing Sister B's photos, she should have regretfully explained that she didn't want to be the second photographer and then cancelled the appointment.

Blogging nasty things about people in your social circle, ward, family, or neighborhood is beyond the pale, whether or not you use their names and whether or not you think your blog is private. Sister A should have vented her anger to her husband (out of earshot of any children) or to some far-away friend or relative who doesn't know you or anyone else involved. Broadcasting anger to the ward and trying to win people to her side was divisive and contentious.

It would have been appropriate for Sister A to discreetly seek advice from a local friend or two who could be trusted to give a fresh perspective and then keep their mouths shut.

So you were right. She was both wrong and badly behaved. That doesn't solve your problem.

Even though you were not in the wrong, I recommend apologizing. You seem genuinely sorry that you hurt her feelings, and it will cost you nothing to say so. And it will put the onus on her to stop gossiping.

Write her a gracious note. Don't say you were wrong for booking the session with Sister B, because that is insincere. But don't say she was wrong to object to your session with Sister B, because that is a poke in the eye and not an apology. Do tell her you never meant to offend her.

Apologize -- and use the word "apologize;" it's magical -- for her hurt feelings, and say that you hope she can forgive you.

And if anyone in the ward asks you about the situation, calmly say that you and Sister A had a misunderstanding. Then change the subject.

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