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‘Sorry, Sorry, Sorry’ Review: An Interactive Guide to Crafting Effective Apologies

3.5 Stars

"Sorry, Sorry, Sorry" by Marjorie Ingall and Susan McCarthy
"Sorry, Sorry, Sorry" by Marjorie Ingall and Susan McCarthy By Courtesy of Simon and Schuster
By Sky D. Jung, Contributing Writer

The issue of terrible apologies is a widely accepted truth, and it's a sentiment that resonates with anyone who has been on the receiving end of one. However, poorly crafted public apologies, riddled with excuses and victim blaming, are not limited to celebrities, politicians, or bloggers — they are ubiquitous and universally recognized as bad.

Despite our ability to spot them, it still remains challenging to apologize effectively. In light of this, Marjorie Ingall and Susan McCarthy wrote “Sorry, Sorry, Sorry: The Case for Good Apologies” to explore the nature of apologies, the perfect language to craft one, and the reasons why they present a challenge for all people alike. Combining their decade-long study of apologies posted on their website,, with a diverse repository of outside research in psychology, history, and pop culture, Ingall and McCarthy thoughtfully craft an 11-chapter argument that details the undeniable value of apologies in modern society. The book further examines the art of apology with humorous and refreshing candor, critically assessing a history of bad apologies to present the ultimate how-to guide for avoiding the pitfalls of a bad apology.

The book starts off by presenting a case for why apologizing is necessary and increasingly important in today’s quickly changing landscape of interpersonal relationships. While the modern sense of apology seems to be a still-developing craft, Ingall and McCarthy attempt to properly define this through a critical examination of what constitutes good apologies as opposed to bad ones. In their claim that not all apologies are the same, Ingall and McCarthy present a foolproof method for good apologizing in a six-step formula, good apology checklists, and bad apology bingo templates.

One of the strengths of "Sorry, Sorry, Sorry" is the authors' ability to draw on a wide range of examples to illustrate their points. In every chapter of the book, Ingall and McCarthy seamlessly pair engaging storytelling with factual evidence to establish a style of narration similar to Malcolm Gladwell’s — a casually informative yet highly compelling one. Ingall and McCarthy draw in readers by sharing examples of apologies across fields of study, time periods, and scopes of human relationships. Whether it be a reference to research experiments, historical events, or personal anecdotes, the diverse presentation of supporting evidence exemplifies that apologies are an inherently interdisciplinary and multifaceted phenomenon. By emphasizing the regularity of bad apologies, the book is both engaging and relatable, as readers are likely to see themselves or people they know in the examples provided.

Ingall and McCarthy consistently characterize the act of apology as a universal experience in a number of ways. For instance, Ingall and McCarthy emphasize that dissociating apologies with the apologizer is important in understanding that bad apologies are not always correlated to faulty moral character. Rather than praising or villainizing apologizers for the quality of their apologies, Ingall and McCarthy emphasize that good people are capable of making bad apologies. Thus, if all people have a potential to both give and receive bad apologies, there is a clear necessity for training the skills needed to make a good apology.

Ingall and McCarthy also provide a plethora of valuable action items that effectively bridge conceptual ideas with practical implications. Not only are there explicit step-by-step guides on how to formulate and assess good apologies, there is also a portion of the book dedicated to the importance of understanding cultural nuances when contemplating how to navigate apologizing in a jungle of societal imbalances. For instance, Ingall and McCarthy investigate the role of gender politics and societal norms in the way that society perceives different apologies, ultimately providing readers with a more holistic and conscientious commentary on pragmatic apologizing.

The central argument of the book culminates in the fact that apologies are not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength. By taking responsibility for our actions and acknowledging the harm we have caused, we demonstrate our willingness to do better and to make amends.

The authors suggest, “An apology doesn't mean you're weak. It means you're strong enough to take responsibility for your actions and to try to make things right.”

Ingall and McCarthy offer a wealth of insights into why apologies are so challenging to get right. They explain that part of the problem is that many have been socialized to view apologies as admissions of guilt or weakness. As a result, people often shy away from apologizing or do so in a way that minimizes their responsibility. This can lead to further harm, as it fails to address the underlying issues and can leave the person who was harmed feeling unheard and invalidated.

The authors outline a number of key components of a good apology, such as acknowledging the harm, taking responsibility, expressing remorse, and making a commitment to change. They also emphasize the importance of listening to the person who was harmed and being open to feedback. To craft a good apology, the authors suggest that we need to shift our mindset and view apologies as an opportunity to demonstrate our integrity and commitment to repairing the harm we have caused.

Overall, "Sorry, Sorry, Sorry" is a valuable and insightful book that offers practical advice for anyone looking to craft a good apology. It is a must-read for those who have struggled to apologize or have been on the receiving end of a bad apology. By demonstrating the power of genuine remorse and a commitment to change, the authors make a compelling case for the ability to craft effective apologies in our personal and professional lives.

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