How to apologise (and sound like you really mean it)
The Telegraph July 3, 2014
Luis Suarez is the latest public figure to deliver an unconvincing apology, so how do you say sorry in a genuine, believable way? We asked the experts
Luis Suarez has apologised for biting the shoulder of Giorgio Chiellini during the Uruguay versus Italy game at the World Cup.
The player - who has appealed a four-month ban from football following the incident - released a statement via his Twitter account, saying: “I deeply regret what occurred, [I] apologise to Giorgio Chiellini and the entire football family and I vow to the public there will never be another incident like [it].”
The apology seemed to have done the job, with Chiellini tweeting minutes afterwards: “It’s all forgotten. I hope Fifa will reduce your suspension.”
Suarez is just the latest in a long line of public figures who have been forced to apologise for their actions with varying degrees of success. Hugh Grant, for example, seemed to charm the American public with a bumbling, terribly British apology in 1995 after being caught with a prostitute while he was dating Elizabeth Hurley.
At the other end of the spectrum, Maria Miller, the former Culture Secretary, was forced to resign after her 32-second "apology" to the House of Commons over her expenses claims earlier this year failed to win round either MPs or voters.
But why do some apologies succeed when others fail, and is sorry really the hardest word?
Diana Mather, an etiquette expert and tutor at The English Manner, says the secret lies in finding something you really are sorry about, even if you don’t feel your actions are worthy of blame.
“If you don’t feel sorry, you shouldn’t really say sorry at all,” she says. “If you have offended or hurt somebody, you should feel sorry about that, even if you’re not sorry about what actually happened.”
While some people suggest the best apologies are those without any caveats, Mather believes it is sometimes acceptable to offer an explanation for your actions. “If you don’t explain, then the person might say, ‘Why did you do it then’? Suarez might have said he often loses his temper and this is something he has to work on.”
The best personal apologies are always face-to-face. If this is not possible, Mather suggests a telephone call - while written apologies are generally best avoided.
“When you do it face-to-face people can tell when you’re being sincere; you can shake hands and heal that wound. With writing, the other person can interpret it how they want, which is why tweeting and texting [apologies] are so dangerous.
“I hope Suarez at least called Chiellini before his written apology, as I can’t imagine they had a chance to meet.
“In person, the body language can really win somebody over. If you want somebody to agree with you, you lean forwards, so do that. You want to aim for beseeching rather than begging.
“If they accept your apology they will probably lean in too, and if they reject it they’re likely to lean back. If you have come to them and said sorry sincerely, though, that’s all you can do - if they reject it, that’s their problem. You don’t need to go on about it.”
And while Mather says a well-executed apology can save a personal relationship, she feels the cult of celebrity apologies may have gone too far.
“It’s awful that people have to say they’re sorry about everything, even if they are not. Sometimes you can just say, it’s my private business and I’m not going to talk about it at all.”
Luis Suarez apologises for biting Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup