About SorryWatch

SorryWatch analyzes apologies in the news, history and culture. Was that a terrible apology? We say why.

There are a lot of awful apologies out there. Apologies that make things worse, not better. Apologies that miss the point. Apologies that are really self-defense dressed up as an apology. Apologies that add insult to injury. Apologies that are worse than the original offense. Apologies so bad people should apologize for them. “I’m sorry if I offended you. But if you were so upset, you probably need to get professional help.”

Stupid, rotten apologies are regularly made by celebrities and private individuals. Businesses and governments often bungle apologies. “We’re deeply sorry about what we did, but we have the right to do it and we reserve the right to do it again at any moment.” Yes, and politicians! Amazing garbage is uttered by politicians, and their supposedly expert handlers. Usually they’re trying to apologize without admitting anything. “It’s regrettable if anyone was somehow offended by what was said.”

Some people make bad or stupid apologies because they are trying to keep their pride. But being able to apologize well is something to take pride in. Adults should be able to do it.

There are also people who apparently don’t know how to apologize. So there are belligerent cries of “I said I was sorry! What else am I supposed to do?!” We can explain.

We think these things are contagious. Sometimes people hear a lousy apology delivered to someone else, and they think “Cool – it seems like they’re apologizing but they don’t admit any liability. Heh heh,” or “Nice one! I wonder if she even realizes that apology was an insult,” or “Hey, I could say that without hurting my pride.”

We hope SorryWatch will be a step in the other direction. We regretfully point out the signs of defective, weaselly, and poisoned apologies. We also call out and honor good apologies.

Readers can email examples of apologies in private life, if they’re willing to have us discuss them on the site. We’ll gladly take sides.

You can follow SorryWatch on Twitter, using @SorryWatch, naturally. You can also like us on Facebook.


12 Responses to About SorryWatch

  1. Frances says:

    Hi. I am delighted to hear about Sorry Watch! I have been concerned with apologies for some time. I even wrote 2 blog posts about them:
    http://alameda.patch.com/blog_posts/no-woman-is-an-island-apologies-part-i
    and
    http://alameda.patch.com/blog_posts/no-woman-is-an-island-apologies-part-ii

    I am always amazed at how hard it is for some people to sincerely apologize. I would be delighted to help you in any way I can with this project!

  2. Frances says:

    Here are some more examples:
    In May 2011, Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel is said to have “apologized” for his behavior which has gotten him fired. Here is what he said: “I sincerely apologize for what we’ve been through this recent time. I apologize I wasn’t able to find the one to partner with, and perhaps handle our difficult and complex situation we have.” Does this sound like someone taking responsibility for his actions?
    Scott Ostler hits the nail on the head when he writes in the SF Chronicle: “We’re all sorry for Jim Tressel’s apology.”
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/05/31/SPNH1JN9DP.DTL&feed=rss.sports

  3. sumac says:

    Thanks, Frances. Your blog posts on apologies are excellent. (I was particularly struck by one of your examples of fake apologies: “I’m sorry for trying to do something nice.”

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGH! I have heard that one!

    Agree that Jason Alexander’s apology is admirable, and literally thoughtful….

  4. A. Halchuck says:

    Please email me new posts. I wrote a law school paper on apology for adverse medical events and have been keenly aware of apologies or fake apologies ever since.

    • sumac says:

      That’s cool. Has research apology affected your behavior?

      (Did you check the box to have new posts emailed to you?)

      Sumac

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  7. janice weiss says:

    Why nothing on this blog about Aaron Lazare, who wrote a wonderful book called Ön Apology” (Oxford U. Press, 2005)?

  8. Mrs Shoes says:

    Came by way of Ragan Chastin (Randy Hodur fiasco).
    Keep up the good work.

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