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.
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