Show You’re Sorry, Even When You’re Not at Fault

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:

When someone causes you some kind of harm, say they step on your foot, they’ll say “I’m sorry.” When you’ve experienced some kind of misfortune or loss, like a death in the family, people will again say, “I’m sorry.” In that latter example, they aren’t (we presume) admitting that they had anything to do with the death. In the first example, “sorry” means “I wish I hadn’t done that.” In the second example, “sorry” means “I recognize your loss.” Two different acts that just happen to share the same word, “sorry.” As we’ve noted before, letting jurors, judges, and opposing parties hear an apology can be effective when you are responsible, or are likely to be found responsible, for at least part of the damage at issue in the case. But what about when you’re not? Does that second kind of “sorry,” meaning “I recognize your loss, but without accepting responsibility for it” create a persuasive advantage as well?

According to some new research, yes, it does. Calling them “superfluous apologies,”…

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