Genuine apologies build personal and brand trust

Reputations are entwined in the confidence to trust in relationships and outcomes.   But when the proverbial hits the fan there are real opportunities to boost brand trust.  And the proverbial will hit the fan at some point in some way to and from us all. When the fan goes it’s a  real opportunity for genuine apologies to build personal and brand trust.

As humans riding a constant business roller coaster of survival, competition, overwhelm and priorities we are not perfect or faultless in everything we do.  We can mistreat others, make mistakes, be negligent, cause harm, breach trust and misjudge.   Clients and suppliers resources can be invested unwisely and advice may not always be sage. 

But how we respond after the act is significant on many levels and influence our  personal brand authority and market reputations.  Whether the stuff up was miniscule or mammoth, consequences are intrinsic. 

And those flow across the commercial and financial sides of business, notwithstanding the impact on relationships and the mental wellbeing of all involved.

For clarity, I am not talking here about mistakes of the monumental, government, institutional or the royal commission kind.  But the issue is if we care about righting the wrong.

Why it’s hard to say sorry

Given that humans blunder, be it, intentional or inadvertent, why is admitting and apologising like pulling a decayed tooth from a tiger?  What prevents people from stepping out to take responsibility and remedy?   

Many struggle with apologies and admitting mistakes putting their heads in the sand like an  ostrich. Denial or a determination to shift blame, save ego and skin is an unsound place to paddle.

Owning and admitting mistakes of any kind can feel like a loss of business power and a declaration of weakness. This is totally nonsense as taking responsibility and apologising actually takes great courage and strength. 

Studies also show entrenched non-apologists grapple with deeper psychological conflict around apologising as it elicits really shameful feelings (either conscious or unconscious) they desperately want to avoid.  

Moving the mountain  

A genuine apology can shift mountains of despair. It can elevate self-esteem and purpose, build partnerships, foster trust and most importantly, allow business and relationships to repair, grow and succeed.


  • Ethical – it’s right and decent thing to do
  • Repairs and re-establish partnerships and relationships
  • Restores dignity and workflow
  • Positive impact on reputation and referrals
  • Risk management and reduction in adverse PR
  • Minimises conflict and gives the space for business creativity
  • Strengthens self-respect and values which impact our personal brands
  • Improves your wellbeing and self-esteem. 

Intention and purpose  

Sincere apologies should not be given in the expectation of forgiveness. Sure, it is an ideal by-product, but other people’s response is their responsibility. It’s about righting a wrong and contrition.

A genuine apology centres on the intention after reflection of the impact. If you cannot be genuine, then reflect on why not, and don’t say the words yet, because I promise you that feelings and thoughts are equally as powerful and loud as words and actions.

Think of a time when a friend or colleague was in distress, and when trying to help, you were met with an ‘I’m fine, nothing is wrong at all’.  You damn well knew something was wrong, it’s as clear as day, yet the words are disparate to the sensing.

Similar to disingenuous apologies. Notice how they are often given with a gruff “I’m sorry, I won’t do it again” as the person huffs off across the office. The manipulative ‘sorry’ to immediately gain favour is also transparent. As is a gushing “I’m so sorry, I was wrong” without other words and actions.

Elements of a genuine apology

Firstly,  apologies  which are not  apologies but full of transferred blame don’t cut it.  The  ‘I’m  sorry  you were offended” or  ‘I’m sorry you felt that way’  can cause even more harm. Everyone knows there is not true intent for mending.  But it brings up the question of intent and interest to improve the relationship with the person or business?    

So if you are genuine there are 5 elements of an apology.  If number 3 (amends) is missing in action it’s an indicator the apology may be vacuous and insincere.  Like any communication skill it takes guidance and practice.

Delivery can be in person, over the phone or via email. An email is the least ideal as it really can be a weak way out. And rarely is number 3 ever included in written form. A caveat, of course, is to be mindful of the recipient and the situation and appreciate how they will feel receiving the apology to reduce further harm. Be brave but respectful

Expression of regret

Say you are sorry in a heartfelt way, with meaningful and genuine remorse. Be motivated by and share an appreciation of the impact of the issue.

Admitting fault and taking responsibility 

Own up and take responsibility.  Keep excuses and extenuating circumstances to a minimum. A raft of excuses weakens the apology, as it can translate as narcissistic and disingenuous.

If there are valid commercial circumstances, offer an explanation, but keep it brief and relevant unless it is really a complex technical issue. Within this step, also sharing an appreciation of how the mistake impacted is important.

Ask how to make amends

Asking how you can make it right is the stamp of true remorse and emotional intelligence.

Amends may be in the form of actions, financial compensation, time support, referrals or something of value to the other person. Think of how you can help prior to the apology and give a few options for the party to consider if appropriate. This is where actions do speak louder than words.


This repairs trust. Commit to being mindful of not repeating in the future.  Be very intentional.

Ask forgiveness

As mentioned above, this is an ideal outcome, but not in your control. But it helps bridge confidence for both parties to become a united part of enduring solutions and relationships.  Just a side here, forgiveness also has the power to move mountains, from both sides.

Don’t miss the opportunity

Hey we are all human and will continue to make mistakes as we cannot be perfect 24/7.  But they are great opportunities to strengthen personal brand  trust and reputations.

And at the same time we need to forgive ourselves too.  In fact it’s  essential we work to forgive ourselves when we stuff up and appreciate they are learning opportunities  to learn and grow. So don’t be hard on yourself either.

This was also  published in Kochies Business Builders

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