Apology is Better Without “Any”

Public apologies are hard to do well. Just ask the leaders of the University of Michigan. With reports about sexual misconduct from a former sports doctor going public last week, U of M President Mark Schlissel issued an apology to “anyone” who was harmed by Dr. Anderson, according to a Detroit News report. What if he had apologized to “everyone” harmed, instead of “anyone” harmed? Use of the word “any” in an apology is risky; it may protect against admission of responsibility, but it also undermines sincerity.

So this week, President Schlissel and the Board of Regents issued another statement. It begins, “We are sorry for the pain caused by the failures of our beloved University.” No equivocating here; the University acknowledges that it failed, and pain resulted. Imagine how much weaker this statement would sound if it had said, “We are sorry for any pain…” or, “…caused by any failures…”

U of M still has a big mess on its hands, but at least it’s improving its apologies. (Full disclosure: I am an alumna.)

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