Seven apologies for an apology

at 12:48 PM, 26/11/2010 (7 years ago)
(214 | Upcoming) (m)
Say it like you mean it: the simplest apologies are the most effective. You might want to up the tulip count, too Photo: PHOTOLIBRARY.COM

When did you last receive a gracious apology? When did you last hear a public figure make a convincing apology? Come to that, when did you last make a gracious apology yourself?

The British used to excel at saying sorry. If grovelling were an Olympic sport, we would win gold, silver and bronze. But saying sorry in words that ring true is another matter. The norm these days is a half-baked apology for an apology, couched in weasel words that have been run past a lawyer.

Listen to Jeremy Clarkson grovelling in 2009, after he had called Gordon Brown “a one-eyed Scottish idiot” on a visit to Australia: “In the heat of the moment, I made a remark about the Prime Minister’s personal appearance for which, on reflection, I apologise.” This is a verbal car crash. Do you reckon the curly-locked loudmouth is genuinely sorry? He is just going through the motions.

Or how about this turkey of an apology by Labour’s Tessa Jowell at the height of the parliamentary expenses scandal: “If you feel that we, the government, fall short of what you expect, then I say sorry for that.” Ah, so it was all the voters’ fault, for expecting politicians to behave themselves. There is not an iota of genuine contrition there.

Elton John was right. “Sorry” really is the hardest word, not just because it is difficult to admit you are in the wrong, but because the word itself is so vague. How many people say sorry, but do not actually apologise?

Phrasing an apology just right takes surgical skill – and if you want to master that skill, and maintain good relations with your nearest and dearest, you need to avoid the Seven Deadly Sins of Apologising.

1 The apology that doubles as an excuse

If you are going to eat humble pie, eat humble pie. Don’t act like a defence lawyer and enter the pleas in mitigation at the same time as you are apologising. “I’m sorry, darling” is 20 times better than “I’m sorry, darling: I was tired/under pressure/it was two in the morning/I had been drinking/it really wasn’t much more than a fumbled kiss”. Leave the excuses till later. Read More:

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