Variations on “I’m sorry” are playing an increasingly prominent part in our public and private discourse, with figures as diverse as Charlie Sheen and the CEO of BP making widely circulated statements of remorse. In an era of truth commissions, demands for redress of historical grievances, and humiliating revelations of personal indiscretions, apologizing has evolved into a nuanced ritual, one that has attracted the interest of researchers from a variety of disciplines. Some studies provide insights into the effectiveness of apologies and explore the fine line between expressing regret and taking responsibility.
The non-apology apology
There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but Zohar Kampf tells us there are 14 ways to offer a non-apology apology. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem assistant professor of communications delineated them for a 2008 article in the Journal of Pragmatics. To determine “how public figures realize creative forms of apologetic speech in order to minimize their responsibility for misdeeds,” Kampf examined 354 conditional apologies made by Israeli public figures, organizations, or institutions between 1997 and 2004, breaking them down into specific categories and sub-categories.
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