5 Ways For Public Speakers To Not Say “I’m Sorry”

We All Know When We've Done Something Wrong
We All Know When We’ve Done Something Wrong

Oh, oh – now you’ve done it. Somehow, in some way, you screwed up. You made a mistake and did something (or in many cases you said something) that was wrong. What are you going to do now? The best thing to do would be to apologize and hope that your audience is using their listening skills. However, it turns out that this is just a bit more difficult than it seems…

The Problem With Saying “I’m Sorry”

So why do we even bother with saying “I’m sorry” in the first place? When we do something wrong, we offend others. This means that they are going to be less willing to work with us and to help us out. If we go to the effort of apologizing, then we can mend fences with these people and get things back to the way that they used to be.

One-on-one apologies are fairly simple to do. However, when we’ve done something that has offended a larger group of people, then that’s when our public speaking skills are going to have to come into play and the true importance of public speaking is going to have to save the day.

5 Ways To Not Say “I’m Sorry”

Just as there are many ways to correctly tell the world that you regret what you’ve done, there are just as many ways to do a bad job of it. No presentation tips are going to help you out here. The author Chris Witt has taken a look into how we can make up for the wrongs that we’ve done. Let’s take a look at 5 ways that you should not go about saying “I’m Sorry”.


  • Duck!: As kids we all did this – when we were caught doing something wrong we were quick to blame someone else: “He did it!” As speakers, we can’t do this. We need to “man up” and take responsibility for our own actions.



  • Hide: It’s not your fault if there were a set of circumstances that ended up forcing you to do or say what you did. This is another classic defense that won’t go over very well with your audience. Don’t even try it. Instead, accept responsibility no matter what the sequence of events was that led you to where you were.



  • Others Did It: This is an interesting defense that your audience might not pick up on for awhile, but they’ll see through it eventually. When you use the passive voice to offer your apology you deflect the blame on to others by talking about what happened in an onlooker way: “Facts were incorrectly evaluated and a bad decision was made”. You made the bad decision, tell everyone that you are sorry that you made it.



  • Time Is On Your Side: Every event has a timeline associated with it. This means that from the moment that the mistake is made going forward, things can happen or not. When you choose to make an apology is important. You may be tempted to wait as long as possible in the hopes that the whole thing will blow over. Don’t. The sooner that you apologize, the quicker the event will become defused.



  • Keep It All Inside: Making a mistake and then having to apologize is a big deal for all of us who are not emotionless serial killers. This means that while you are making your apology, there is a good chance that some of your emotions will come spilling out around the edges. This is a good thing – it shows that you are human. Don’t let your emotions obscure your message, but do let them show.


What All Of This Means For You

We all make mistakes. Even knowing this, we will all continue to make mistakes. What this means is that we need to become good at asking for forgiveness. The ability to say “I’m sorry” and to be believed is the key to starting to move beyond whatever we’ve done.

As easy as this may appear to be able to do, it turns out that it’s quite difficult to do it well. One of the benefits of public speaking is that we can apologize to a large group of people all at the same time. Speakers need to be careful to avoid making the 5 mistakes that we’ve discussed when offering an apology.

Learning to make a good apology may be something that none of us instinctively wants to do; however, the benefits can be substantial. When people believe that you mean what you are saying then you’ll be able to quickly move beyond the situation that you find yourself in. This is a skill that is well worth developing.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: How soon after you realize that you’ve done something wrong do you think that you should offer an apology?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As public speakers, we all know the importance of public speaking. The one tool that we all have to work with is our choice of what words we want to speak. Even more important than any presentation tips is the choice that we have in choosing a wide variety of both words and phrases that we can use in our next speech. It turns out that we can make good word choices that help us get our message across to our audience or we can make bad choices that cause our audience use their listening skills to tune us out. When we use a cliché, we’re doing a bit of both…