Fauxpologies. Apology shaped objects that don’t work. Which of these non-apologies have you heard before, or even (cough) used yourself? Confession: at some point I’ve ticked all boxes.
- I’m sorry if you were offended.
- I’m sorry that you were offended.
- I’m sorry but that doesn’t represent my values.
- I’m sorry but that wasn’t like me.
- I’m sorry but I didn’t know…
- I’m sorry but [anything].
- I’m sorry and devastated and now you must console me.
SorryWatch founders Susan McCarthy and Marjorie Ingall say most of us are pretty poor at apologising – we’ve just not been taught how and there are few good examples to learn from.
It’s worth developing this skill. The cost of stuffing up an apology (in leadership, relationships, in life) can be high – it’s infuriating to be on the receiving end of a fauxpology or no apology whatsoever. Apologising well is a rare superpower – it massively boosts trust. We love leaders and partners who take responsibility.
Susan and Marjorie say there are six essential ingredients to an authentic and effective apology.
1. Say “I’m sorry” or “I apologise”. Avoid “I regret” – it’s not about your hurt.
2. Say what you’re sorry for.
3. Show that you understand you did a bad thing.
4. Take full responsibility – no excuses.
5. Explain the actions you’ll take to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
6. Make reparation if possible.
Saying sorry requires courage – a willingness to be vulnerable in the service of something that matters. If you say sorry and your pride is still intact, then you’ve probably just crafted a fauxpology.