We apologise for any inconvenience

It is a depressingly common experience. You are waiting for a train and an announcement tells you that your train is late. The announcement invariably ends ‘We apologise for any inconvenience.’ Why do announcers always include the minimising word ‘any’?  

Including ‘any’ signals that the announcer (or rather the organisation they represent) doubts whether passengers have, in fact, suffered any inconvenience at all—and are probably being unreasonable if they claim to have suffered any.

Train operators simply need to accept that delays always cause inconvenience. The announcement needs to acknowledge that the delay has caused inconvenience and to say sorry that the train operator caused the inconvenience.

(A more extreme form of victim-blaming occurs when politicians or other public figures say something offensive and then ‘apologise if any offence was caused’.)

We spend ages teaching small children to give gracious, heart-felt apologies and not just the grudging non-apologies in which the child’s body language contradicts the words they are parroting. Train operators and other service providers really need to give proper, adult apologies. Why are so many of them still stuck at the 3-year-old stage?  

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