Monday, 20 August 2012

We are sorry you feel that way

The modern art of the narcissistic apology

An apology is not an apology when it is qualified by "I am sorry you feel that way..." which is the formula nowadays for all organizations, whether town hall or pharmaceutical company, internet provider or hospice, to fend off criticism or legal action even in cases when there is no ambiguity about the facts. An apology should start with an acknowledgment of responsibility ("I am sorry we made a mistake"..."I am sorry for all the inconvenience/expense our stupidity/our computer glitch has caused you") not an implicit denial of wrongdoing by suggesting that subjective emotionality on the part of the complainant has warped their perception. The effect is as conciliatory as "Keep calm, dear".

If you get a reply like that, my advice is, complain again - whether they've got something to hide or are just being arsy, they need to look in the mirror. If a friend you love resorts to the phrase, you'll forgive them, because you know they don't want to hurt your feelings; if you don't love them, you'll never trust them again.