How to Say Sorry: A New Model for Apologies

April 14, 2015

[peter dazeley/corbis]
[peter dazeley/corbis]

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.” Too often, that’s how public apologies play out, with the perpetrator becoming a victim, or long-winded explanations undermining the intent. With all of the time PR people spend on crafting speeches, message points and press releases, you would think an apology would be simple. But it’s not.

Sometimes, the outcome of a poorly conceived and executed apology creates more negative attention than the original offense. Take, for example, British Petroleum CEO Tony Hayward. During the Gulf oil spill crisis in 2010, Hayward undid his apology by adding: “There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I’d like my life back.” It’s that kind of tone-deafness that we need to remedy with a new model for saying sorry.

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