The 7 Signs Of A Bad Apology

11/29/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

There are many of ways of not quite apologising, and they all take longer than the real thing. The real thing needs only one word. "Sorry." Or if you want to spin it out, "I'm sorry."

The moment you start adding words to these, you risk detracting from the force of the apology. But of course, consciously or otherwise, that's often what people are trying to do.

I have identified Seven Deadly Sins of non-apology. They are the Off-target, the Facetious, the Reproachful (you shouldn't be so stupid), the Reproachful (you shouldn't be so sensitive), the I-didn't-mean-it, the Vicarious and the Circumlocutory apologies.

Take Russell Brand's insolent attempt to express regret for the answerphone messages he and Jonathan Ross left on Andrew Sachs's machine: "I'd like to take this opportunity to issue a personal Russell Brand apology to Andrew Sachs, the great comic actor who played Manuel, for a message that Jonathan and I left on his answerphone, but it was quite funny. But, sometimes you mustn't swear on someone's answerphone and that's why I'd like to apologise personally."

If so, he failed. By being facetious he added insult to injury. He also usefully exemplified the first two of my Seven Deadly Sins of Non-apology. First the Off-target apology: avoiding the real offence and apologising for something irrelevant.

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