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Front Page - Friday, February 17, 2023

Book review: Book offers cure for weak, disingenuous apologies

Man, were you ever wrong.

You know it, your boss knows it and your customer sure knows it. If it could be on a highway billboard, it would scream YOU WERE WRONG, and now you must make amends. So how can you do that, sincerely and without sounding smarmy?

In “Sorry, Sorry, Sorry” by Marjorie Ingall and Susan McCarthy, there’s no groveling.

So you messed up, probably big-time, and that happens every once in a while to everyone. Saying you’re sorry is necessary because “apologies civilize us.”

The first thing to do is to own your mistake, ‘fess up, let the chips fall and don’t even try to weasel out. Take a deep breath and just let it happen. If this was big, let people yell at you.


To make a great apology, there are “six and a-half” steps.

• Actually apologize and acknowledge what you did – come on, even monkeys can do that.

• Show that you know “why it was bad.”

• Explain, but don’t make excuses (yes, there’s a difference).

• State why you won’t do that again

• Offer to make things right.

• Then listen to what the aggrieved person has to say about this whole mess.

Know the different ways that you can apologize – you don’t always have to do it in person, hat in hand – and know how not to do it, too. Remember that there are “tons” of ways to make an apology backfire and make the situation worse. Never say “That’s not who I am!” because yes, apparently, it was at least once.

Know the 13 words you should keep away from your apology and learn how to teach a kid to apologize without trauma and tears. Learn why some professionals and government departments are reluctant to issue apologies, while others skirt the issue with the lamest of words. Know how to accept an apology graciously and when.

And if you’ve gotten an apology that “sucks,” speak up. Don’t you deserve better?

Does it feel sometimes like you’ve been apologizing a lot lately for so many things? Yeah, it’s that kind of world we live in, and you’ve messed it all up, so let “Sorry, Sorry, Sorry” be your guide.

With a good splash of humor, “Bad Apology Bingo Cards,” and lighthearted ways to be a better person, the authors help you mend those “what-did-I-just-do?” kinds of days. Despite its chuckles, though, this book is grown up, with real workarounds for the awkwardness of unintentional wrongdoing and valid chances to make amends.

On the flip-side, readers will also learn how a dashed-off “sorry, but” can make things worse and how to avoid that. You’ll see what to do if you’re in a position of power, how to respond to keep everybody happy, and how to decode celebrity sorry-not-sorry fiascos.

Helpful, but never stuffy, “Sorry, Sorry, Sorry” is a good start toward repairing a friendship, fixing an oops or healing a relationship. Read it. You can’t go wrong.

Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of business books are read in more than 260 publications in the U.S. and Canada.