The “If” apology

The Art of Apology

Have you started to hear this apology more often recently?

“I’m sorry IF I offended you?”

I recently heard it from the CEO of a company I work for

The ULTIMATE non-apology apology.
It might be something that you’ll hear mainly from politicans or your boss who has decided a form of action but didn’t think of the impact to others within the organisation.
It may even be a phrase that you have used “I’m sorry if you felt like that” or “I’m sorry if you felt offended” or “I’m sorry if what I said hurt you”

This kind of apology shifts the blame onto the offended party, and denies personal acceptance of wrongdoing, as in “I’m sorry if you were offended by what I said”.
The “if” implies that the apologiser either doesn’t even know they did wrong (and did not bother to find out) or else does not acknowledge that they did wrong and so are pretending to apologise because they feel obligated to rather than because they are actually sorry.

There is no confirmation that the apologiser actually regrets anything or has learnt anything from what they did that was wrong. According to John Kador in Effective Apology, “Adding the word if or any other conditional modifier to an apology makes it a non-apology.”

So how should I apologise?

Here are the typical 5 steps, they don’t have to be in this order however it would usually be good to touch base with each

1. Admit your error, own it… don’t deflect or pass on the blame!
2. Acknowledge the harm you have caused… That’s the whole point of the apology
3. Express that you’re actually sorry
4. Ask for forgiveness… forgiveness isn’t something you can ‘take’ it has to be given to you
5. Commit to change… if you are going to apologise you don’t want it to be a regualar thing, lets change the way we do things going forward too!

One thought on “The “If” apology

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