The art of the apology

Belinda Tasker
By Belinda Tasker | 4 August 2022
Belinda Tasker. Image: Supplied.
Why does sorry seem to be the hardest word?


Manly coach Des Hasler’s lengthy apology  over the NRL club’s controversial mishandling of its plans for players to wear a pride jersey is a timely reminder of not only the importance of saying sorry but being sincere.

So, what’s the secret to saying sorry successfully? And why does it matter, anyway?


Everyone makes mistakes – individuals, company bosses, corporations, employees, politicians.

But not everyone fronts up to say sorry, and even if they do apologise, it can go terribly (and publicly) wrong. In fact, a “bad” apology can do as much damage to your organisation’s reputation as no apology at all.

Sincerity is key.

If you or your company have made a mistake, a sincere apology is key to defusing tensions, improving relationships with your stakeholders and allowing everyone to move on.


Hasler’s emotional mea culpa was a masterclass in apologies.

Not only did he apologise to all Manly’s key stakeholders, but he admitted that the “execution of what was intended to be an extremely important initiative was poor”, adding that there had been “significant confusion” as well as “poor management”.

He also offered support and promised that the club had “made an error from which it will learn”.

Importantly, he offered these simple words: “We wish to sincerely apologise for the mistakes we have made.”

Being sincere and genuine are the keys to a good apology.

To help people and companies achieve those goals, the late American psychiatrist and apology expert Dr Aaron Lazare suggested including these four elements in any apology:

  • Acknowledge and take responsibility for the mistake, harm or offense. This includes admitting that the behaviour was unacceptable
  • Explain how the mistake, harm or offense occurred – but don’t offer excuses
  • Express remorse
  • Be prepared to make amends or commit to change


We’ve all heard apologies from politicians and companies that include lines like, “I’m sorry if what I did/said caused offence …” or “I’m sorry but ….”.

This type of semi-apology never comes across as sincere or expresses any kind of accountability. Instead, it’s likely to annoy the recipient by sending them a message that you think that they’re wrong.

Other things to avoid when apologising include:

  • Using vague or evasive language to minimise any offense caused
  • Sounding defensive
  • Showing a lack of accountability, remorse or compassion
  • Not taking ownership of your wrongdoing

So, the next time you need to say sorry, front up and follow Des Hasler’s lead.

Saying sorry might not always be easy, but if you want to get things back on track with stakeholders it’s essential.

Belinda Tasker is associate director at Cannings Startegic Communication. This article previously published HERE

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