How not to apologise sincerely

Britain’s prime minister Gordon Brown was caught saying, by a microphone he was still wearing for broadcasters, that the elderly female voter he had been talking with was a ‘bigoted’ woman. When that came to light, as a politician, he knew that to cut losses the only thing he could do was to apologise to the woman as soon as possible. Which he did. But later when he recounted his apology to the woman before the press, he said:

“…If you like, I’m a penitent sinner. …”

Which further exposed his politician hypocrisy.

First, he prefaced his statement with “If you like”. Second, he used an unduly strong label: “penitent sinner.”

Apology is an art. Do it carelessly, you’d be better off without apologizing.

Public figures often preface their apologies like this:

“If I have (offended anyone) …”, as if they were still unsure what wrong they had done.

Why preface it with “If …”? Why not just apologise away? If the apology is not warranted, people will still respect you for your humility.

And then the stock expression: “We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.”

So, are they ready to apologise or not?

Why not the straightforward “We apologise for the inconvenience caused”!


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