APOLOGIES: How to say I’m sorry – blog

This week we focus on APOLOGIESand how to say I’M SORRY.

Based on my research for this blog, it seems we have some work to do when it comes to apologies.

apology quote Steve Martin

Mea Culpa! Come on people!

Read on to learn:

  • How to say “I’m sorry” (do’s & don’ts)
  • 8 epic apologies
Let’s do this!


How do you define a “real apology”? We know one when we hear one, right? 

sorry brad image
(image Unsplash @ timmossholder)

There are 4 steps in an apology script: 

  1. Explicitly express remorse. Use the word SORRY or APOLOGIZE or both.
  2. Admit Responsibility. Why it was wrong.  What you learned. Be explicit about your personal responsibility.
  3. Action to make Amends. What you will do. How you will make it up to the person. 
  4. Promise It Won’t Happen Again.

Sounds easy, right?

broken plate
 (image Unsplash @ chuttersnap)

What NOT to say:

  • Don’t be indirect. As in “I’m sorry things turned out like this” or “I’m sorry you feel this way.”  Instead say, “I’m sorry for my actions that resulted in this” or “I’m sorry I hurt you.”
  • No “if’s”.  As in “I’m sorry if I offended you” or “I’m sorry if I made anyone uncomfortable.” (Instead say, “I’m sorry I used those offensive words” or “I’m sorry I said those inappropriate things.”)
  • Don’t passively blame others. As in “I’m sorry my team did that” or “I’m sorry we didn’t think about that in advance.” (Instead say, “I take personal responsibility…”)




There are so many apologies from which to choose!  Here are 8 epic apologies:

1️⃣ Emporer Henry IV apologizes to Pope Gregory VII (1077)

  • Pope Gregory VI didn’t take kindly to Henry IV appointing his own bishops, so he excommunicated Henry IV.  Henry IV and his family trekked across the Alps and knelt in the snow for 3 days, begging for the Pope’s forgiveness. The Pope finally forgave him. But less than 3 years later, Henry IV deposed Pope Gregory VII, who later died in exile. 
  • More HERE
Henry IV apologizing

2️⃣ Former U.S. former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara apologizes for “misjudgments” regarding the Vietnam War (1995)

  • “We were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why.”
  • More HERE.

In Retrospect by Robert McNamara

3️⃣ President Bill Clinton apologizes about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinski (1998)

  • “Indeed I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong … I misled people, including even my wife. I deeply regret that.”
  • Watch it HERE

broken heart apology
(image Unsplash @ kellysikkema) 

4️⃣ Cyclist Lance Armstrong apologizes after being stripped of his 7 Tour de France titles for doping (2013)

  • “I view this situation as one big lie I repeated a lot of times.”
  • More HERE
apology, saying sorry
(image Unsplash @ lmtrochezz)

5️⃣ Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologizes to former Residential Schools students (2017)

  • “Today, I stand humbly before you, as Prime Minister of Canada, to offer a long overdue apology to former students of the five residential schools in Newfoundland and Labrador on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians. I also offer an apology to the families, loved ones and communities impacted by these schools for the painful and sometimes tragic legacy these schools left behind. For all of you – we are sincerely sorry – pijâgingilagut – apu ushtutatat… Saying that we are sorry today is not enough….
  • More HERE

6️⃣ PwC and the 2017 Best Picture Oscars Blunder (2017)

  • Under PwC’s watch, Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty were provided the wrong envelope, and announced “La La Land” won the Oscar instead of “Moonlight.”
  • “We sincerely apologise to Moonlight, La La Land, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for best picture.”
  • More HERE

(image Unsplash @ matscha)

7️⃣U.S. Democratic presidential Candidate Joe Biden apologies for saying, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” (2020)

  •  “I know that the comments have come off like I was taking the African American vote for granted. But nothing could be further [from) the truth… I’ve never ever done that, and I’ve earned it every time I’ve run. I was making the point that I have never taken the vote for granted. And in fact, I know in order to win the presidency, I need the African American vote…”
  • Watch it HERE

8️⃣Ellen deGeneres apologizes to her staff for the toxic work environment behind-the-scenes of her talkshow (2020)

  • “My name is on the show and everything we do and I take responsibility for that… As we’ve grown exponentially, I’ve not been able to stay on top of everything and relied on others to do their jobs as they knew I’d want them done. Clearly some didn’t. That will now change and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again.”
  • More HERE and HERE



Did I miss an “epic apology” that you were hoping to see on this list?  If yes, “I’m sorry!” ?  Please let me know.  Email me at andrea@TalkAboutTalk.com or join the conversation on social media – all the links are HERE.

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Have a great week and stay safe.

Talk soon,

Dr. Andrea Wojnicki - headshotDr. Andrea C. Wojnicki
Chief Talker & Communication Coach

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