Several ways NOT to apologise

Everyone makes mistakes, including not-for-profits. What sets you apart is the way you handle your apology. Before we talk about how to say sorry, let's take a look at how not to respond when you've stuffed things up, with Our Community’s thinker-in-residence, Chris Borthwick.

Chris Borthwick
Our Community's thinker in residence, Chris Borthwick

There are many kinds of apologies, and some of them even involve being sorry. Then there are these:

  • The passive-aggressive apology
    "If any hysterical little crybaby has been offended by my recent statement of the true facts of the 5G hoax, I apologise sincerely to all concerned."
  • The proud-moment apology
    "I apologise sincerely to all concerned for the club’s involvement in chattel slavery during the 1960s, but I have to point out that our willingness to admit to past sins is greatly to our credit and shows our very real superiority over all the other clubs."
  • The scapegoat apology
    "The Dirtcheap Poisons Dumping Company is sincerely sorry that the 300,000 tons of ammonia stored in its East Sunshine facility exploded and blew a crater in the suburb, and stern action will be taken by the company against nightwatchman Ern Parsons (who was entirely responsible for every aspect of this accident) should any part of him be recovered."
  • The good-old-days apology
    "The Evangelical Orphanage Board acknowledges that attitudes to children have developed further over many generations in the direction of not flogging three-year-olds with birches and concedes that the attitudes of the distant past may require modification in our new litigious era, but asks the public to understand that attitudes were very different in 2016."
  • The what’s-the-fuss apology
    "The council has apparently been criticised for accepting a no-tender bid from Mr Whiteshoes for the sale of the sports oval, and if wanting to save ratepayers needless administrative expense counts as ‘corruption’ then we can only apologise."
  • The apology your lawyers drafted
    "If it is in fact proved in court that I murdered seven hitchhikers, which is not conceded, I apologise sincerely to all concerned for the misunderstanding."

More information

Help sheet: A quick and sometimes messy guide to apologising

The apology to refugees: David Manne at Communities in Control 2019

10 years on from Sorry Day and no closer to equality: Stan Grant at Communities in Control 2018

Deaf Can:Do (Royal South Australian Deaf Society): Open letter apology | Advocate’s rebuttal

Help sheet: What to do in a media crisis: don’t run, don’t hide

ICDA newsletter special edition: Crisis management

More help sheets: Communications for not-for-profits

Become a member of ICDA – it's free!