There was an insightful article in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Oct.19, by journalist Elizabeth Bernstein entitled “I’m Very, Very, Very Sorry…Really?” It rated the sincerity of apologies from the most sincere to the least, who we most apologize to, and why insincere apologies don’t work. Here are her apology categories:
The heartfelt apology: An acknowledgment of wrongdoing accompanied with remorse showing that you both understand, and regret the pain that you inflicted.”
Example: ”I am so sorry that I __________. I know that I was wrong and that I hurt you. It will not happen again. Will you forgive me?”
The strategic apology: Not sincere, but offered up to end a fight or to stop the other person from hurting. You may or may not feel you were in the wrong.
Example: “I’m sorry. Can’t we just move on?”
The Defensive Apology: “A self-protective, half- baked (and therefore rarely effective) maneuver meant to defend your actions.” (Bernstein)
Example: “I’m sorry but you…”
The Contingent Apology: “Used when you want to appease a person but don’t know what you’ve done wrong–or don’t care. “If” is the key word here.
Example: “I’m sorry if I’ve done something wrong.”
The Too-Late Apology: “An expression of regret that comes days, months or years too late.”
Example: “I realize now that what I did was wrong.”
The Bully Apology: “Entirely insincere, tendered only to manipulate the recipient into some action…”
Example: “Sorry to dump this report on you at 5 p.m.”
Tomorrow, I’ll give the elements of a sincere apology.