This morning Gordon Taylor said:
“If people feel that way (offended) about what I said, I can only apologise.”
Most public apologies are pretty poor and this is no exception. The effectiveness of an apology rests largely on its sincerity.
It also rests on a subtle shift in two or three words.
If he had said “many people have clearly been offended by what I said and I am truly sorry” it would have made a difference to the impact, if not the outcome.
Rule of thumb: don’t let the word ‘if’ go anywhere near your apology. Apologies should be unconditional, not qualified.
Every morning one or other train from my station is delayed and the announcer says “we apologise to customers for any inconvenience this has caused.”
In this case, it’s the use of the word ‘any’ that lets it down. It’s too scattergun, akin to that terrible line in the Take That song – “whatever I said, whatever I did, I didn’t mean it.”
Say something specific and heartfelt. An apology is an apology, not a disclaimer.