Apologies v fauxpologies: getting sorry right

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.

In episode 129 of the fabulous language podcast, The Allusionist, Helen Zaltzman interviews apology experts to discover why sorry is the hardest word. And how you can get it right. 

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.

For more resources on apologising well, listen to The Allusionist episode 129 and see the extra materials provided with the audio.

Subscribe to the blog

book eric

Organize your next event

Buy books

Buying books in bulk? Enquire about volume pricing.

well done!

Swipe Right On Your Best Self has been added to your cart. Click the cart button below and proceed to checkout. You’re on your way to a bolder life with fewer regrets!