How to say sorry, badly

There are lots of ways to apologise, and most of them are insincere! Here are five alternatives that politicians and corporate leaders use when they are (wrongly) advised to avoid just saying “sorry!”

1. Deny there’s anything to apologise for

Increasingly this seems to be many of our political leaders starting point. Who cares if you get caught? You can always apologse later for the misunderstanding.

2. Change the subject 

This is the favoured non-apology of politicians. It starts well -“I’m wholeheartedly, truly sorry,” - and goes downhill from there: “But here’s a list of things that are FAR more important than the thing I’m being forced to apologise for.” Boris Johnson perfected this non-apology in the House of Commons the other week, diverting our attention from party gate and citing Brexit and the vaccine rollout as reasons we should trust him.

3. The “sorry for how I’ve made you feel” apology

Designed to switch the focus, ideally to all the over-sensitive souls who are upset by what you may or may not have done. This apology is so slippery it’ll never stick, so you’re not accountable. “I’m sorry if people feel upset/angry/let down,” is a great way to avoid actually apologising, and it shifts the focus away from you. If you’re lucky, it’ll go viral, as it did for Priti Patel.

4. Blame something else for what you did

Roseanne Barr blamed late nights and medication Ambien for a racist post on Twitter

Sanofi, makers of Ambien, responded, saying “Racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.” Boom. 

5. Or, you can just try crying

And finally, if none of those work, cry. Just make sure you have perfect nails like Adele has here.


Article written by Kate Hartley, co-founder of crisis management agency Polpeo.

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