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How to apologize

How to apologize can be the key to getting true forgiveness and moving a relationship forward in a positive way. Let’s look at seven tips for apologizing sincerely and successfully!

How to apologize

By: Maralee McKee

In the middle of an intense moment, we all occasionally say or do something that, depending upon our mood, hurts others either intentionally or accidentally.

Then, when we come to our senses, we realize an apology is in order for the pain we caused.

And not just any old apology.

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Since we’re sorry, we want to offer an apology that will let the person we hurt know how much we regret our words or actions — an apology that moves us past the situation into greener pastures where the offended person trusts us, our motives, and our words again.

In short, we want to offer an apology that’s sincere and restorative.

But How?

People who are hurt tend to think irrationally, and that’s due to anger. In the same way that anger clouded our discernment when we said or did the thing that got us into this situation, anger can cloud angry people’s ability to forgive.

While we know we should apologize, it’s not always easy. Doing so opens us up to the possibility of being confronted with anger and resentment by the offended person(s).

And it’s not always easy for them to accept our apology. They can wonder whether it’s the truth — perhaps the words we’re apologizing for are still our true feelings.

The secret ingredient to sincerely offering or accepting an apology is intention .

When we apologize to people from our heart — and mean it — we hope they’ll decide with their mind to accept our mea culpa.

Not because it’s easy to forgive and forget, not because we necessarily deserve it, but because they’ve intentionally decided to forgive us.

Besides, not forgiving us hurts them more than it hurts us. After we apologize, our life looks and feels pretty much the same, but for the person who doesn’t forgive, the sun shines dimly on their days. That’s because they see things through the dark lenses of bitterness, anger, and unforgivingness.

And for those of us who need to offer an apology, let’s not wimp out or let pride get in the way. Let’s intentionally try to right our wrong. Doing so not only speaks to our character, but it’s proof of our character.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

So what do we say and do to offer a sincere apology intentionally? Here are the seven steps of how to apologize sincerely.

How to Apologize —The 7 Steps of a Sincere Apology

1. Ask for permission to apologize.

Those whom you’ve offended appreciate that you’re not jumping right in and assuming you can do something that involves them. Sometimes, the permission to apologize comes right away, and sometimes it comes after those offended have had a chance to cool off. When they grant you permission (and they will, because they very much want to hear what you have to say), let them know in detail what you’re apologizing for. Those offended need to hear from you what you did so they know you understand why they’re upset.

2. Let them know that you realize you hurt them.

Tell them how much you regret what you did, you know it was wrong, and you value their feelings. Express that you wish you could turn back time and change what you said or did.

Be careful not to say anything along the lines of “If I hurt you, I’m sorry.” Doing so means that you don’t understand that you did hurt the person. “If” and words like it put the blame on the other person for feeling hurt instead of on the person who committed the offense.

3. Tell them how you plan to right the situation.

Sometimes, it’s not possible to right a situation. When it is possible, do everything you can to make it right. When it’s not, let the person(s) offended choose the outcome they’d like to see.

4. Let them know that inherent in your apology is a promise that you won’t do what you did again.

Step 4 is crucial. Otherwise, what you’ve offered isn’t an apology — it’s an excuse.

5. After you’ve talked through things, formally ask them for forgiveness.

“Laura, I’m asking for your forgiveness. Will you please forgive me?” If what you’re asking forgiveness for is something that caused a deep hurt, add, “I understand you need time to think about it.” What you don’t want to do is to assume that just because you asked for their forgiveness, they’re going to hand it right over to you.

6. Consider following up with a handwritten note.

Why? The note is a permanent reminder of your remorse and your promise not to repeat the offense. It also helps you keep your promise because — well, they have it in your handwriting that you will. Think of it as a forgiveness promissory note.

7. Now it’s time for both people to go forth and live out their promises.

If Laura accepted your apology, that means she can’t hold a grudge and bring up what you did every time she gets angry with you. And you (who apologized) can’t go around doing what offended her in the first place.

A sincere apology should be given and accepted with the intention of restoring the relationship.

Sometimes, it takes time for things to get back to the way they were, but they can be even better than the way they were. Intention can move relationships to a deeper level of respect, harmony, and care for one another. When deciding how to apologize, just remember to keep front and center the words of Benjamin Franklin:Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”

Until next time, keep giving the world what only you can give: you at your authentic best!

How to apologize

apologize apologise apologising (common alternate spellings)

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About Maralee McKee

Maralee McKee is dedicated to helping you become the person you most want to be and to live a confident, kind, and generous life! She is a contemporary etiquette, manners, and people skill expert and the founder of the prestigious Etiquette School of America. She’s in the top one percent of experts in her field, and her etiquette skills blog is the most read in the United States. Maralee presents business etiquette seminars to corporations large and small and coaches individuals one-on-one virtually and in-person. Her book on how moms can teach their children to become the best version of themselves (Harvest House Publishing) earned the prestigious Mom’s Choice Gold Award for excellence in parenting books.

Join the Most-Read Etiquette, Soft Skills, and Interpersonal Communications Blog in the United States!

When we say, or do, something that hurts someone we care about, a sincere apology is a great first step to repairing the damage; however, saying “I’m sorry,” and actually meaning it, can be nearly impossible for many kids and maybe even a few adults.

The reality is that many people do not know how to apologize, or they resist saying they’re sorry because admitting a mistake makes them feel vunerable and exposed.

To keep it simple, a good apology can be broken down into the following 5 steps:

  1. Say what you did that was wrong
  2. Say you are sorry for doing it
  3. Say how you will fix it
  4. Ask for forgiveness
  5. Give the other person time to feel better and accept the apology

In this lesson, you’ll help your students learn to use these 5 steps to deliver their best apology, and also we’ve included a few tips of things not to say.

How to apologize

Recommended Grade Level: Elementary and Middle School

Duration: 30 minutes

Materials: Apology slip worksheet

Learning How to Apologize Lesson

Prompt:

“Today we’re going to talk about what we should do if we hurt someone’s feelings. We’re going to learn how to say we’re sorry and really mean it!

Who thinks it’s hard to say ‘I’m sorry?’

Let’s say that you were mad about something, and you told your best friend that you weren’t going to be friends with them anymore. Do you think that would hurt their feelings?

Do you think a good way to apologize would be to say:

  • I’m SOOOORRRY‘ really loud?
  • ‘I was just kidding?’
  • ‘I’m sorry, but it really made me mad when you _____?’

Probably not. If you want to tell them you are sorry, you need to follow these 5 steps:

Step One: Tell the other person exactly what you did (or said) that was wrong or hurtful.

You could say ‘I know that it was wrong when I said that I wasn’t your friend anymore.’

Step Two: Tell them you’re sorry

Say ‘I know that hurt your feelings, and I’m sorry’

Try not to say why you did what you did because it will sound like you are making excuses and not really sorry.

Step Three: Tell them how you will fix it

How do you think you could fix this situation with your friend? What could you say? Or what could you do?

Step Four: Ask for forgiveness

Say ‘I hope you will be able to forgive me’ or ‘I hope you accept my apology’

Step Five: Give the other person time to feel better

Now the hard part. You have to give the other person time to get over the hurt you have caused. It may take a while, or they might not be able to forgive you. But you have to wait for them to decide.”

Apology Slip Printable:

Hand out an apology slip to each student. As practice, ask them to fill out the slip as a ‘do over’ for a time when they weren’t able to apologize or when they didn’t do it very well.

After they fill out the slip, ask if any students would like to share what they wrote down.

How to apologize

Over the last few months, we’ve heard a spate of apologies pouring forth from the pens and lips of politicians, businesses, celebrities and even royalty. But psychologist Harriet Lerner says most miss the mark, which is why she was inspired to write Why Won’t You Apologize: Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts.

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Most of us haven’t been taught how to apologize, and our efforts tend to be deleterious: vague, intrusive, demanding, or full of caveats that can leave the recipient of an apology feeling even worse. “When the apology is absent or it’s a bad apology, it puts a crack in the very foundation of a relationship and can even end it,” Lerner says. And that’s why it is critical to get it right.

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A good apology, she explains, is an opportunity for us to take clear and direct responsibility for our wrongdoing without evading, blaming, making excuses, or dredging up offenses from the past. It brims with accountability, meets the moment, and can transform our relationships.

Here are six ways to offer an apology that can help heal, rather than cause additional harm.

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Drop your defenses.

“Our automatic set point is to listen defensively,” Lerner explains. “We listen for what we don’t agree with, so we can defend ourselves and correct the facts.” She suggests keeping an open mind and listening with an explicit intention to understand the other person. “Try to wrap your brain around the essence of what that hurt party needs you to get.”

Be real.

When you’re apologizing for something, it’s critical to show genuine sorrow and remorse. It feels vulnerable to not be in control of the outcome, but as Lerner reminds us, it is also courageous.

How to apologize

No ifs or buts.

A sincere apology does not include caveats or qualifiers. “‘But’ almost always signifies a rationalization, a criticism, or an excuse,” Lerner says. “It doesn’t matter if what you say after the ‘but’ is true, the ‘but’ makes your apology false.”

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Less is more.

Keep your apology short and mind the histrionics. “If you’ve forgotten to return your friend’s Tupperware, you don’t have to overdo it as if you’ve run over her kitten.” Over-apologizing is not only irritating — it disrupts the flow of the conversation and shifts the focus away from the person who needs to be attended to, Lerner explains. “You’ve hijacked the hurt party’s emotionality and made the apology about you.”

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Stay focused.

Your attention when apologizing should be on the impact of your words or deeds, not on your intention. Zero in on the situation at hand and stay attuned to the needs of the person who is hurting. “It’s not the two words ‘I’m sorry’ that heal the injury,” Lerner explains. “The hurt party wants to know that we really get it, that we validate their feelings and care.”

And remember: A good apology is a beginning, not an end.

In her book Why Won’t You Apologize, Lerner reminds us, “An apology isn’t the only chance you ever get to address the underlying issue. The apology is the chance you get to establish the ground for future communication.”

An apology creates an opening. When done with attention and care, it can be a conduit for greater understanding and deeper connection.

Simran Sethi is a journalist who reports on psychology, sustainability and ways to make the world more just. The podcast portion of this episode was produced by Clare Marie Schneider. Gilly Moon provided engineering support.

After a stressful year when COVID-19 disrupted our lives, nerves are understandably frayed. Whether dealing with pandemic-related difficulties or other concerns, there have probably been instances where you weren’t your best self. You might have some relationships—with relatives, friends, partners, and colleagues—that need healing and reconciliation. This is where figuring out how to apologize comes in handy. No matter who is in the wrong, sometimes nothing soothes animosity faster than saying “I’m sorry,” but screwing up your apology can make things worse.

In A Good Apology: Four Steps to Make Things Right, Molly Howes, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Boston, delineates the elements of a solid apology. She explains that you should seek to understand the other person’s injury, offer sincere regret, make restitution, and show it’ll never happen again. As you can imagine, it’s easy to falter (especially when hurt feelings or defensiveness are involved). So we’ve asked Dr. Howes and other experts for a few tips to keep in mind when you’re apologizing.

1. Listen closely before rushing to apologize.

Sometimes quick apologies make sense. Say you’re in the market and bump into someone; it doesn’t take much to say “sorry” and help them pick up their groceries. But in more complicated matters, rushing toward an apology can be insincere. So what should you do instead? “First, calmly ask what’s going on to understand how the other person feels,” Dr. Howes tells SELF. “Then shut up and listen, even if it’s uncomfortable.”

Active listening—which involves making eye contact or otherwise making it clear that you’re completely tuned in and really focusing on what they’re saying instead of preparing your rebuttal—helps you truly understand the impact of your missteps. With this insight, you can make your apology more specific, heartfelt, and effective. You can affirm what you’ve heard from the other person and ask clarifying questions as necessary. The attentiveness also helps you keep the same mistake from happening again.

2. Prepare your apology in advance when possible.

Not everyone communicates the same way. If you want forgiveness from someone you offended, whenever possible, connect via their comfort zone, not yours, whether it’s (safely) in person, on the phone, in an epistolary missive, or via Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, or or other multimedia. “If it’s in writing, show the draft to someone you trust before sending,” Vatsal Thakkar, M.D., a Connecticut-based psychiatrist, tells SELF. “If it’s in person, write down your apology first to organize your thoughts and get it right.” While forgiveness isn’t guaranteed, this small step can help smooth things over.

3. Be specific and detailed in your apology.

The declaration that you’re sorrowful isn't always enough. If someone has taken the time to explain how you’ve hurt them, then you can mirror that vulnerability by expressing your regret, explaining why it happened, and showing how you’ll repair the damage.

After you explain yourself, the key is to emphasize that you understand how you’ve harmed the person (which should be clear if you’ve been listening actively) and then follow up with how you’ll avoid making the same mistake in the future. If, for instance, someone is upset that you haven’t returned their calls, you might say: “I’m sorry I was unresponsive. I was working overtime, but that doesn’t excuse anything. You are important to me, and I understand how my actions caused you pain. In the future, I’ll shoot you a text ASAP to let you know when I’m free to call.”

How to apologize

Most friendships have their ups and downs. And even though it totally sucks, sometimes we hurt the people we care about and get caught up in conflict. Remember Katy Perry and Taylor Swift’s falling-out? It was a difficult time for their friendship, and harsh words were exchanged. Even so, their bond was recently repaired. After years of bad blood between the singers, Katy sent Taylor a literal olive branch on the first day of Taylor's Reputation tour. While it’s usually metaphorical, the concept of extending an olive branch has always been seen as a way to declare peace, or apologize.

Taylor posted the gesture on her Instagram story on Tuesday afternoon. In the post, she said, "So I just got to my dressing room and found this actual olive branch. This means so much to me." A heartfelt apology letter accompanied the olive branch, with the first line reading, “I've been doing some reflecting on past miscommunications and the feelings between us.”

The apology was a very adult move, and a great example of how to make amends after a feud. All kinds of friends, celebrity or not, have rough patches. Sending an olive branch and apology letter is definitely one way to apologize to a friend and make things right, but it’s not the only way.

Having a good friendship doesn’t mean never messing up, or always being happy with each other. Learning how to apologize to someone you’ve upset is scientifically proven to actually strengthen your friendship! There’s no better way to show you care than offering a genuine apology when things go topsy-turvy. Here’s how:

It's never too late to apologize.

"Although there is no psychological research that tells us when the best time is to apologize or how to do it, it is important to know that each situation is different," says Cynthia V. Catchings, a licensed clinical social worker and Talkspace provider who specializes in working with relationship issues. "When should we apologize to a friend? When we have analyzed the situation, we feel concerned about it, and we have found a way to compensate or make the other person feel better."

Focus on empathy, and acknowledge your actions.

Empathizing can be as simple as telling your friend that you want to listen to what they have to say, and how they feel. Catchings recommends avoiding the use of "you," and focus on talking about "us" or the situation itself, instead of pointing fingers.

That's why it's important to directly acknowledge and accept accountability for your actions—saying something like, “I’m so sorry that I did _______. I know that must have felt bad. What I did/said was wrong.” Let them know that you understand how they feel, and that you also understand that what you did wasn’t OK. Relationships are complicated.

That’s why Dr. Amy Cirbus, a counseling psychologist and Talkspace provider, says they should be “accompanied with real active listening, communication, and thoughtful reflection on how your behavior or words have affected someone else.” She explained to Teen Vogue that “if what you have done or said to someone that you really value has hurt him or her, apologizing for your acts can be beneficial to maintaining the health and viability of the relationship.” It can show that you value them and take their experiences seriously. If you also felt hurt by a way they reacted or something they did, you can bring this up to them, and talk about how you can both work on being better to each other.

They may not accept your apology, and that's OK.

When you reach out to apologize, get to the point as quickly as possible. It’s easy to start out with disclaimers about your own feelings or why you did what you did—but letting your friend know you’re sorry is the most important thing. Get to that part as soon as possible, and you can talk through the rest later. However, your friend might not always accept your apology.

“If they don't accept your apology, there could be myriad reasons why,” Dr. Cirbus told Teen Vogue. “Perhaps it was the way you apologized; perhaps it's because they are still to angry or too hurt to accept it; maybe the friendship has some other wounds and this was the proverbial straw,” she says. Ultimately, she explained, “there's nothing you can do but be as honest and sincere as you can be and then leave the ball in their court. You can't control anything else.”

Compensate for what you did.

While your offering doesn’t necessarily have to be a literal olive branch or other gift, it’s always a great idea to balance the playing field with a token of affection. Offer to take your friend on a picnic or to a concert, or do something nice that will cheer them up. This can and should still be accompanied by the words “I’m sorry” and taking responsibility for what you did or said. However, this is also a way to show them you want to go the extra mile to make them feel better. This might even be a great way to do something that you both enjoy together, and restore balance and positive feelings.

If you're the one being apologized to, listen and be honest.

And if you’re the one who’s being apologized to, the most important thing you can do is listen, and be honest about your feelings. Communication is the key — and it goes both ways. If your friend’s apology seems genuine, and it sounds like they really want to work on their actions and repair the friendship, you can accept the apology. That doesn’t mean that things will be better immediately, per se.

“There is no timeframe to accepting an apology. You have the right to take your time and process your anger or hurt and come back around when you're feeling less intensity about the offense,” Dr. Amy Cirbus told Teen Vogue. Still, it’s an opportunity to strengthen your friendship and become even more of a dynamic duo than you might have been before. You don’t have to say “It’s OK” when someone apologizes — but you can thank them for their apology and ask them not to do what they did in the future, or tell them how they can make it up to you.

Also remember that accepting an apology doesn't automatically make you feel better.

"You can accept an apology and still hold some feelings of sadness about what’s happened," says Rachel O'Neill, a licensed clinical counselor and Talkspace provider. "Moving forward doesn’t mean you have to forget the past."

As much as I strive to be kind, there are days when I fail miserably. I’ll wake up in a bad mood, the kids will be cranky, and a million little things won’t go my way. My hormones will be unstable, the budget won’t balance, and I’ll get some terrible news. Life will weigh me down – it happens to all of us.

When I’m feeling less than pleasant, I am more likely to make mistakes. I lose my patience. I say things that are unkind. It’s often unintentional, but nonetheless, I hurt others.

Whether it’s my friend, my colleague, my spouse, my children, or even a stranger – no one deserves to be treated unkindly because I am having a bad day. So it’s been important for me to learn a lesson in retroactive kindness – to learn how to truly apologize.

It’s never an easy thing to do. Admitting you were wrong and owning up to your bad actions is a humbling experience. A true apology leaves you vulnerable and exposed and oh so uncomfortable. But it also leaves you with a better understanding of yourself and others, and hopefully will give you the empathy to avoid the same hurtful path in the future.

Here are my 5 uncomfortable steps to a sincere apology, from someone who’s had to eat their fair share of humble pie:

1. Name what you did wrong. Don’t just say: “I’m sorry you got hurt.” That’s not owning up to your actions. Instead say: “I’m sorry I called you naïve” or “I’m sorry I shoved past you.” Be specific about your actions and why you are apologizing for your behavior.

Even more importantly, don’t project your actions as someone else’s fault. “I’m sorry you made me act that way” is not an apology at all. No one can make you react a certain way. You are the one responsible for your actions and words.

2. Use empathy. Maybe your actions wouldn’t have hurt you, but the fact is that they hurt someone else. Acknowledge their feelings as legitimate. Try to see things their way, and let them know you understand their hurt. For example: “I’m sorry I showed up for dinner so late. I know it made you feel unimportant, and I should have respected your time more.”

Usually people get hurt because you are putting yourself first, so make sure you put yourself in their shoes when you’re apologizing.

3. Make it all about you. If a fight has erupted, and you’re the first to come forward and admit you were wrong, keep the apology all about you. Don’t focus on what the other person did wrong or how they provoked your actions. Pointing out the other person’s faults and demanding a reciprocal apology will undermine everything else you say. If you’re only saying sorry so they will say sorry too, you need to rethink your reasons for apologizing in the first place.

4. Keep explanations brief. You should definitely think about the root reason that you were unkind before you apologize. Like I said before, no one can make you react a certain way, so whatever the other person did is irrelevant. Maybe you were feeling insecure about yourself or maybe you were under a lot of stress at work or maybe you were feeling a bit jealous.

You can explain yourself if the reason is relevant, but keep it brief and remember that it doesn’t justify your behavior – and say so. “I was stressed out about my project deadline, but that doesn’t make it okay for me to yell at you. I’m so sorry I acted that way.”

5. Let it go. Once you’ve apologized, it’s time to take a cue from Frozen and let it go. What happens next isn’t up to you. As hard as it may be to put yourself out there and truly apologize, the fact is no one owes you their forgiveness. It’s not something that can be earned. Forgiveness is a gift, and quite frankly, one you never deserve.

Don’t try to force someone to accept your apology. If the other person doesn’t want to repair the relationship, respect their decision. Let go of any resentment and anger, and once again, try to see things their way. You can only do so much before it’s time to let it go.

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How to apologize

Despite the unrealistic expectations that many of us have for ourselves (and others), virtually all of us make mistakes—sometimes even big ones—with some frequency. In fact, if you are living a bold, creative life in which you are engaging with the world in a way that makes the most of your experiences, it’s hard to imagine how you could get away without making a blunder every once in a while. Mistakes don’t have to define you.

What’s key is handling your mistakes the right way.

When your mistakes affect others, it’s not enough just to accept that mistakes happen and move along. A good apology can go a long way toward not only reversing some of the damage that has been done, but also preventing further deterioration of a relationship. And although most of us have been taught to apologize from our earliest days, many of us lose sight of the point of an effective apology. Here are some key components to keep in mind.

1. Be clear about what you are apologizing for. If you know that your partner is mad at you, but you’re not sure why, you may be tempted to create a blanket apology just to try to move forward (“You’re obviously mad about something; I’m sorry for whatever I did”). This misses the chance to convey your understanding of what you did and how you hurt them—which misses the whole point of the apology. Similarly, “I’m sorry you’re upset” or “I’m sorry if you took it wrong” are not true apologies for your own behavior. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a place, but if a true apology for your specific actions is what’s called for, they are not an adequate substitute.

2. Don’t add conditions where conditions don’t belong. With apologies that are coming on the heels of a contentious situation, there is often the urge to protect yourself by limiting your apology within specific parameters or putting conditions on it. You may also be tempted to only give a piecemeal apology, and then see if the other person apologizes next. Be careful of this, and mindful of the risk of adding so many conditions to your apology that it ceases to mean anything anymore. “I’m sorry I said X, but if you hadn’t done Y, then I would have never been so upset” may be true, but it is also prone to escalating the conflict and making it sound like you’re not very sorry at all.

3. Your apology should stand on its own: Don’t apologize as a means to get what you want. An apology can be a useful tool—for connection, for repairing a relationship, and for understanding yourself and others better. It should not, however, be used as a tool to get something that you jeopardized by behaving badly. Apologies that have this “let me get it over with” flavor ring hollow and risk doing more harm than good. When you prepare to apologize, ask yourself: Is this apology something I feel is useful in its own right? Or am I viewing it as a means to an end to get what I want? Of course, you may very much hope for some positive effects of the apology. But those should come naturally, not be part of a quid pro quo of your having said sorry.

4. Know the difference between explaining and justifying. Explaining why you did something can sometimes help the other person understand what happened, but there’s a fine line between that and making excuses for your behavior. “I’m sorry I said that; I was angry, and I didn’t handle it well. I let my emotions get the best of me, and that is why I lashed out” is an infinitely more helpful opening to a true, vulnerable conversation than “I’m sorry I said that. You make me so mad sometimes that I just can’t help myself.”

5. Express remorse with empathy. An apology is about more than words—it is also about body language, tone of voice, etc.—yes, I am assuming that you are apologizing by the spoken word, not by text or email. A lot of times, the words may be there, but the empathy and remorse are not. Like an 8-year-old screaming “SOR-ry!” as she storms away on the playground, or a politician offering a canned, superficial press release about mistakes having been made, it becomes clear that there is no true remorse. If you don’t feel actual remorse within an apology, ask yourself why you’re doing it—and whether it’s just a charade that you are apologizing at all.

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6. Have a plan for it to not happen again. I have worked with many people whose relationships are caught in a cycle of: hurt each other, apologize, hurt each other, apologize. Rinse and repeat. This is one of the main reasons even a “good” apology can fall on deaf ears. Words don’t mean nearly as much if the actions don’t follow. As the saying goes, “The best apology is changed behavior.” Even better, explain in your apology what you are going to do to try not to make the same mistake anew, to further give the other person some confidence that they won’t have to endure it all over again.

7. Be open to repairing and making further amends. Sometimes, words—even good ones—don’t feel quite sufficient to complete the process of repairing a relationship to the extent that it can begin to move forward. Maybe there is a corrective action you need to make—perhaps involving additional people—or logistical or even financial tolls that need to be paid. Don’t assume that saying sorry is enough when what your friend really could use is further help to mitigate the damage of a situation you had a hand in.

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8. Listen. Ultimately, an apology shouldn’t just be about you. It should be about the feelings of the person you are apologizing to. After all, the fact that you are choosing to apologize makes it clear that you feel that you have wronged someone, at least on some level, so their feeling about it is just as important as yours. Don’t get so caught up in your own words that you forget to listen to theirs.

What makes a good apology to you? Let me know in the comments!

How to apologize

You screwed up. Now it’s time to own it. Knowing how to apologize is a crucial life and career skill. But when you write an apology letter, creating a permanent record of an event and your response to it, it’s all the more important that you get it right.

Why is writing an apology letter so hard?

Apologizing is an art form few of us seem to master. We don’t want to admit our mistakes because we think that making mistakes reflects badly on our character. But the truth is, not apologizing, or making a feeble non-apology, is often worse.

There are a few reasons you may struggle with apologies:

  • You assume that making mistakes means you’re a bad person. When you feel ashamed, you have a hard time recognizing that one goof doesn’t reflect on your character as a whole.
  • You get defensive. No one wants to feel ashamed. But a defense is not an apology.
  • You worry that you’ll have to own all the responsibility, or that you’ll open the floodgate for more accusations. It could happen, sure. But not apologizing builds resentment over time, and that’s toxic to personal and workplace environments.

The good news is that when you put your apology in writing, you have the luxury of polishing and editing your thoughts so that they say precisely what you mean to convey.

The Elements of a Good Apology Letter

Sorry does seem to be the hardest word, but if you can master these steps in the apology process, you’re sure to make a good impression. These guidelines apply whether you’re apologizing for a personal error, or you’re writing an apology on behalf of a team or business.

  • Say you’re sorry. Not, “I’m sorry, but . . .” Just plain ol’ “I’m sorry.”
  • Own the mistake. It’s important to show the wronged person that you’re willing to take responsibility for your actions.
  • Describe what happened. The wronged person needs to know that you understand what happened and why it was hurtful to them. Make sure you remain focused on your role rather than deflecting the blame.
  • Have a plan. Let the wronged person know how you intend to fix the situation.
  • Admit you were wrong. It takes a big person to own up to being wrong. But you’ve already reminded yourself that you’re a big person. You’ve got this.
  • Ask for forgiveness. A little vulnerability goes a long way toward proving that you mean what you say.

It’s as easy (and as hard) as that. No minimizing, no shifting blame, no defenses. Now, let’s take a look at some apology letter examples that follow this format.

Apology Letter Examples

Before you begin writing, there are a few pointers to keep in mind. First, keep your letter brief and to the point. Don’t ramble on about what happened—distill it to the essentials. Don’t exaggerate, either. There’s no need to fall on your sword. But do keep your language respectful, sincere, and professional.

The Third-Party Apology

If you supervise an employee who made a mistake and find yourself apologizing to a customer or client, it’s important that you take responsibility without dumping all the blame on the employee. After all, what your employees do reflects your leadership.

On behalf of ABC Office Equipment, I extend our sincerest apologies for the bad experience you had with our sales associate, James. I understand that James made unprofessional remarks when you visited our storefront to inquire about a new copier. You came to us in search of information, and instead were subjected to a pushy salesperson.

At ABC, it’s our goal to help you make an informed purchase decision without having to deal with aggressive sales tactics. James is a new employee that I’ve been training. I take full responsibility for his behavior. He has received a written reprimand and will be shadowing one of our senior sales associates until he has a better understanding of the ABC Office Equipment approach to customer service.

I’m grateful that you brought this issue to my attention and I ask your forgiveness. We’d love to earn your business. I’ve included a voucher for 20 percent off your next purchase in our store as a thank-you, should you decide to give us a second chance. We hope to see you again soon!

Jennifer Smith Equipment Sales Manager

The Personal Apology Letter

Sometimes, you have to own up to something you did that hurt or inconvenienced another person. We’ve all been there. Keep it simple. Don’t make excuses. Show that you’re trying to improve.

I apologize for not arriving on time to pick you up from the airport yesterday afternoon. I have no excuse for keeping you waiting and wondering when your ride would show up.

It’s important to me not to let people down when they’re depending on me. Next time, I’ll make better use of calendar alerts so I’ll be sure to leave in plenty of time to arrive as scheduled, or even ahead of schedule.

I humbly ask your forgiveness. I hope my mistake won’t prevent you from seeking my help in the future. I’m always happy to be of service.

The Mass Apology

It’s horrifying to think about, but sometimes you end up upsetting a group of people rather than just one person. As with all apology letters, It’s important not to say, “I’m sorry if anyone felt offended.” (That’s like saying, “It’s too bad some of you don’t know how to handle my personality.”) Instead, say, “I’m sorry that I offended anyone.”

I owe you all an apology. When I planned my costume for our annual company Halloween bash, I clearly wasn’t thinking. I now realize that what I wore was offensive to some of you, as well as to your families.

It was never my intention to cause anyone distress. Looking back, however, I can clearly see that I didn’t think things through before I decided on what to wear. Next time, I’ll be sure to weigh my warped sense of humor against my sense of propriety and choose something that isn’t controversial.

I hope you’ll forgive me for making you uncomfortable. Please accept the cupcakes in the breakroom as a sincere peace offering.

By Emily Hitz, PhraseMix.com contributor

How to apologize

Knowing how to apologize is an important part of being polite. You probably already know “sorry”, but there are many other ways to apologize in English.

Apologizing for small mistakes

Simply saying “sorry” is most common with small mistakes, like bumping into someone or saying someone’s name wrong. In these situations, people often say:

There are a few slang phrases that you can also use for slight mistakes:

In a very informal text message, a young person might even abbreviate “sorry”:

wanna meet up later?

sry, cant. busy.

Apologizing when you make a more serious mistake:

For a more serious mistake, especially in customer service situations, you might say:

Sometimes people say “oh my goodness” or “oh my gosh” before they apologize in these situations:

Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry. I should have watched where I was going.

Apologizing for incorrect information

If you cause a problem with communication, or give incorrect information, you might say:

My mistake.

I had that wrong.

I was wrong on that.

Sometimes you can say two of these phrases together, and you can say “sorry” at the beginning or end:

Sorry, my apologies. I had that wrong.

Making a formal or serious apology

If you make a serious mistake with a friend, loved one, or coworker, you shouldn’t use casual language to apologize. Try a more formal apology, such as:

I want to apologize.

I wanted to tell you I’m sorry.

After these phrases, you can add “for (doing something/ how I… / what I…)”:

I’d like to apologize for how I reacted yesterday.

If you want to, you can also say:

I hope you can forgive me.

. if you’re very serious about your apology.

Writing a formal apology

We use the most formal English in writing. In this situation, you could use these phrases:

I sincerely apologize.

You may want to complete the sentence with one of these phrases:

. for any problems I may have caused.

Other contexts for ‘sorry’

There are a few situations where English speakers (especially Canadians) say sorry, but they aren’t really apologizing. For example, when you need to pass someone in a crowded place, it’s common to say sorry, but you can also say:

You can also use “Sorry?”, “Excuse me?”, and “Pardon?” (or “Pardon me?”) to ask someone to repeat what they said. In this case, you should use a rising question intonation.

Emily Hitz lives near San Francisco, California, but she taught English in Vancouver for four years. She now works as a freelance writer, educational consultant, and occasional teacher. She’s interested in all things English and linguistics, and Spanish too.

How to apologize

We have all received a quintessential non-apology: I’m sorry you were insulted. I’m sorry the truth hurts. I’m sorry you misunderstood the joke. Although these all include the phrase “I’m sorry,” they may come off as insincere and ultimately place the blame on the person receiving the apology. With a heartfelt apology, you admit you were wrong and take responsibility for your actions in the hopes of alleviating the other person’s hurt and making amends. Sometimes, though, you may want to smooth things over despite the feeling you did nothing wrong.

Step 1

Consider whether or not what you plan to apologize for is actually your fault. If you have done something wrong, the first person you have to admit it to is yourself. Although your pride might be less wounded by avoiding responsibility, you will make the situation worse by offering a backhanded or disingenuous apology. Even if a certain situation affected your actions, you are not necessarily blameless. The point of an apology is not to negate or detail such circumstances, but to allow healing to occur by honestly and clearly admitting what you did do wrong.

Step 2

Determine if an apology really is called for. There are times when you will have the urge to apologize even though you didn’t do anything wrong. Women in particular have a tendency to apologize for all kinds of things they have no control over. Dr. Charlie Glickman gives the example of arriving late when you left the house late versus arriving late after hitting an unexpected traffic jam. It’s reasonable to apologize in the first case, but the second one isn’t your fault. In this situation, he suggests changing the wording. You can say, “I regret I was late.” Here you express condolence but don’t take the blame for what happened.

Step 3

Determine if an apology is called for to smooth over a social or work situation. In an article on Jezebel.com, ethics author Lauren Bloom uses the example of apologizing to an in-law, even though you may be right, in order to relieve family tensions. Bloom also notes that there are plenty of times when another person has a very different experience of a situation than you did. You might be wrong and not even know it.

Step 4

Be careful with your phrasing so that you don’t step into the terrain of a complete non-apology. In the case of the in-law, Bloom suggests coming from a place of sincerity — truly wanting to make amends to alleviate the suffering of your spouse. You can say something along the lines of, “I’m sorry. I see that what I said caused hurt in the family. I won’t do that again.” If you aren’t willing to go that far, try to account for the other’s experience by saying something like, “I had no intention of causing you any pain, and I’m still not sure what I did was wrong. ” and continue from there, speaking from a genuine place of empathy.

How to apologize

Whether you’re committing to your German lessons for the long haul or brushing up before a trip, you should probably make sure you know how to say “sorry” in German. That’s not because Germans are an overly apologetic bunch — quite the contrary, actually. It’s just one of those easy things you can do as a bumbling tourist to move through another person’s country a little more gracefully.

Learning to say “sorry” in German isn’t just a matter of rote vocabulary, though. It’s important to be aware of cultural differences too. For instance, an American might find Germans kind of rude and brusque because they don’t have a habit of apologizing profusely for everything. But from the German point of view, there’s no need for overwrought apologies. A straightforward, simple “sorry,” especially one that’s used sparingly, is more honest and authentic.

While English can use “sorry” for every occasion, German apologies also only make sense in certain contexts. You wouldn’t say “my condolences” because you bumped into someone on the street, right?

Below, we’ll go over the main ways to say “sorry” in German and how to use them in the appropriate situations. You can also click the play button where you see it to hear how the words are pronounced.

How To Say Sorry In German

The “Sorry” Sorry

The classic, textbook “sorry” derives from the verb leidtun , which means “to be sorry” but also carries connotations of “to hurt,” “to regret” and “to suffer.” Sounds kind of dramatic, but when you hear a German say Es tut mir leid, they’re not really thinking about the fact that they’re literally communicating something to the effect of “it causes me suffering” or “it does hurt to me.” It basically means “I am sorry.”

Es tut mir leid is the more formal expression of apology, and is best used in situations where you wish to convey a sense of responsibility and deference.

You can also say Das tut mir leid to convey “I’m sorry,” but this is more for when you’re sorry that something happened to someone that you’re not necessarily at fault for.

In more informal situations, you simply chop off the first part and offer a quick Tut mir leid. This is more akin to saying “sorry” instead of “I am sorry.”

Here’s how these apologies might sound in practice:

  • Tut mir leid, ich habe heute keine Lust auszugehen. — Sorry, I don’t feel like going out today.
  • Es tut mir leid, ich habe heute Abend keine Zeit. — I’m sorry, I don’t have any time tonight.
  • Tut mir leid, ich muss jetzt auflegen. — Sorry, I have to hang up now.
  • Oh, das tut mir leid, da kann ich Ihnen nicht helfen. — Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t help you there.
  • Das war ein Missverständnis und es tut mir leid. — That was a misunderstanding and I’m sorry.
  • Bitte teilen Sie Ihrem Chef mit, dass es uns außerordentlich leid tut! — Please inform your boss that we’re terribly (lit. extraordinarily) sorry!

The ‘Excuse Me’ Sorry

The other most common form of “sorry” in German derives from die Entschuldigung , or “the apology.”

Most of the time, you’ll hear someone offer a simple Entschuldigung, which means “sorry” or “excuse me” (it’s literally like saying “apology!”). This can be used in both formal and informal contexts, and it’s sufficient as a standalone word — in other words, it forms a complete sentence.

To address someone in a more formal way, you would say Entschuldigen Sie . In informal situations, you would say Entschuldige . These are both imperative forms of the word (in a sense, you’re “commanding” that they excuse you, but in a more polite way).

Here’s how the various permutations of this word might appear in a natural conversation:

Shutterstock

No matter where you work or what you do, you’re eventually going to have to apologize to someone for something. That’s a fact of life. In a workplace filled with humans, you will invariably run into a variety of situations where feelings get hurt. As it’s not really feasible—or mature—to take a duck-and-cover approach when things get heated at the office, you need to be equipped with the right words to tactfully address less-than-comfortable situations.

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In order for an apology to be effective, it needs to be done right. Experts agree that the best ones include acknowledgement and understanding of what happened and the damage done. You should also recognize your role, take responsibility for it, and communicate regret. What you should omit are any justifications and the words “if” or “but.” So, “I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings during the meeting,” or “I’m sorry we made an error but you knew we were short-staffed” is not making up any ground.

Now that you know the basics, here are scripts for the most common workplace apologies:

1. You Made a Mistake That You Can’t Fix Yourself

You’re human, so you screwed up on something complex (think: green-lighting something you didn’t actually have the authority to OK). You realize that you don’t have the skills to fix it on your own, and the only option you have is to admit this to your supervisor and ask her to pull some strings and help you out. This apology should be timely (since you need help fixing the error—fast), and open to accepting responsibility. In addition, it should include an assurance that it won’t happen again.

I made a mistake on the ‘B’ Case. I thought I was taking initiative, but I can see now that I should have run my actions by you first. I’m so sorry and it won’t happen again. However, in order to fix it, I’ll need your help. When’s the best time for us to discuss?

2. You Promised Something Impossible to a Client

You’re always striving to exceed your clients’ expectations. You go above and beyond, promising to give them everything their hearts desire. This works well—until you realize that something you guaranteed them simply cannot be done.

If you’re part of a team—even if you’ve been running lead—share your mistake with your colleagues or your boss. They may not be able to help you, but at the very least, they should know what’s going on. Then, come prepared with a solution for when you break the news. If you’re going to tell a client you can’t do something, you want to be prepared to share what you can do instead.

Go With

Unfortunately, I’m unable to provide you with [what I promised you]. I’m sorry for my oversight. I said yes out of enthusiasm and a desire to give you exactly what you wanted, but I should have checked with our resources/budget/bandwidth before saying it could be done. Here’s what I can offer you instead.

3. You Offended Someone

You and your co-worker were having a conversation about something, it got heated, and you said something that offended her. You probably didn’t mean it—or maybe you did—but now you realize in order to keep the peace at the office, you need to smooth things over. Don’t focus on what caused you to speak out (see justification, above), just focus on the fact that you truly regret saying it.

Start Here

I realize that what I said earlier was offensive. I was wrong to speak to you like that, it was unprofessional, and I am truly sorry. I will work on keeping my cool in tense situations.

Note: The above apology works if you told someone you think his slogan will be as popular as New Coke. It does not apply if you said something racist, sexist, bigoted—the list goes on and on, but I know you know that kind of behavior can’t be fixed with an apology template.

4. You’re the Bearer of Bad News

No one wants to deliver bad news. It can be especially frustrating when it’s something that is completely out of your control, or the result of a difficult call. But if you’re in a leadership position, this will happen—a lot.

I find this type of apology to be a little trickier than the others because it’s not something you are 100% responsible for. But the best thing to do is to get to the point quickly, so as to minimize the pain inflicted on those receiving the (less-than-desirable) update.

Check This

Despite my best efforts, I’m sorry to tell you that your promotion/raise/vacation/project was denied. The reason was because of budget cuts/staffing/current priorities. Please don’t let this discourage you. We truly value your contribution to the team and will try to find a way to show you just how much.

5. You Forgot a Task

For whatever reason, you completely blanked on finishing a project by the deadline. To make matters worse, your boss found out before you had a chance to scramble and get it done. He is not happy! So, it’s important that your apology shows you’re not making excuses and you’re providing a concrete time for when you will be finished.

Face the Music With

I’m sorry for missing the deadline on Project X. I realize that my error reflects poorly on the team. I can complete my portion of the work by the end of the day tomorrow. Will that be OK, or would you like to see what I have in draft form?

Having to apologize is never fun, but it’s often necessary in order to forge, repair, and strengthen relationships in the workplace. So, be authentic, sincere, and discuss what you might do differently the next time, because a good apology can go a long way.

How to apologize

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How to apologize

NASHVILLE — A kid can pick up some handy information in Catholic school. The words to heartening songs. An understanding that human worth is inherent, unyoked to public accolades. The power of service over the power of self-gratification.

A kid can pick up some not-so-handy information in Catholic school, too, but let’s save that discussion for another essay.

One of the most useful things Catholic school taught me is the fundamental structure of apology. Whether or not you accept the notion of original sin in its most literal sense — I don’t — it’s impossible not to notice that we’re all born with a powerful inclination for fault and failure. We lie. We treat others unkindly. We nurture wrongheaded notions because they make us feel a little bit better about our imperfect selves. Roman Catholic catechism calls this tendency “the sinful condition,” but here in the 21st century, it’s more usefully known as being born a human being.

We live in the Age of Outrage, a time when any public act of poor judgment is met with public fury. (Think of the case, just last week, of Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet.) That first round of fury is followed swiftly by more fury as new voices defend the pilloried one. Tweet something stupid, and it must follow as the night the day that Twitter will erupt with partisan howls on every possible side, right on up to the aggrieved tweeter in chief, who is clearly thriving in the Age of Outrage.

One problem with the electronic whipping post is that people, no matter how patently flawed themselves, are disinclined to allow a flawed but truly remorseful person the room it takes to reform. A much bigger problem, though, lies with the offenders themselves, whose apologies ring hollow because they almost always involve some variety of self-justification.

To be fair, a social media feed or press release is hardly a window to the soul. But among the higher profile cases, there is plenty to suggest that almost no one in public life knows what it means to be truly remorseful. Or at least how to express remorse.

Here is what Ms. Barr said about her tweet last week: “It was 2 in the morning and I was Ambien tweeting.” (Sanofi, the maker of Ambien, posted its own tweet to set the record straight: “While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects,” it read, “racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.”)

Here is what the “Today Show” host Matt Lauer said about his #MeToo scandal: “Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed.”

Here is what the NBC journalist Brian Williams initially said in a 2015 interview with Mr. Lauer, after being caught in a monstrous, oft-told lie: “I am sorry for what happened.” As though the lie had simply befallen him, independent of his own volition.

When the Food Network fired celebrity chef Paula Deen for using a racist epithet, Ms. Deen told Mr. Lauer — yes, him again — she was sorry for the epithet but was not herself a racist. “Would I have fired me? Knowing me? No.” (No word on whether she would have fired Mr. Lauer.)

To their credit, these public figures all issued much more comprehensive and seemingly heartfelt apologies later on, although Ms. Barr appeared to retract hers following an outpouring of support from conservatives, including the president. (“You guys make me feel like fighting back,” she tweeted. “I will examine all of my options carefully.”)

If you are a Catholic of a certain age, you grew up reciting the Act of Contrition every day, and you thereby learned some things about remorse. (Maybe you learned only the language of remorse, but still: “We are what we pretend to be,” as Kurt Vonnegut observed.)

“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.”

A child who learns these words learns that an apology consists of four parts:

1) Genuine remorse (not “I don’t remember it that way” but “I am truly, wholeheartedly sorry.”)

2) The expectation of unpleasant but entirely deserved consequences (not “I wouldn’t have fired me” but “I’m seeking help to confront my racism.”)

3) A resolution not to commit the same error again (not “I’m not as bad as some of these stories suggest” but “I’m much worse than I ever imagined, and I plan to devote the rest of my life to making amends.”)

4) A sincere effort to avoid the circumstances that led to the error in the first place (not “I won’t take Ambien any more” but “I will no longer hang out online with racists.”)

The moral imperative of the Act of Contrition has its limitations, of course, starting with the question of who gets to decide what might offend God. (“You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image,” Anne Lamott famously pointed out, “when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”) And God knows the world is still waiting for the Catholic Church to apologize for some criminal errors of its own. The prayer is nevertheless a good basic template for something that no longer seems basic at all: knowing how to clean up a mess of your own making.

When a person causes egregious offense, the appropriate response isn’t damage control. The appropriate response is a genuine apology — not because you might get your TV show back but because to acknowledge a mistake is to participate fully in the human community. We all mess up. We all see through blinders. We all say hurtful things. We all nurture prejudices we don’t recognize in ourselves.

It isn’t necessary to think of these tendencies as being part of a sinful nature to understand that they are endemic to human life. Even a full-throated apology won’t erase a colossal mistake. We will never make ourselves perfect. But we can try to make ourselves better, and the culture we live in, too.

How to apologize

Mistakes happen. Errors occur. Maybe the customer received damaged goods, suffered a billing error, or was a victim of a service outage. Whatever the reason, you now need to apologise to your customer.

All too often, though, saying ‘I’m sorry’ alone isn’t enough to appease a slighted customer. It comes across as insincere and perfunctory. This problem is exacerbated when the interaction is happening via live chat, with no vocal or physical cues to convey your candour.

This is where effective apology statements become essential. So, here’s how to apologise to your customers via live chat.

1. Conveying understanding

When you need to apologise to a customer, it’s tempting to dive straight in and get the ‘I’m sorry’ out of the way. But how can you apologise for a problem you don’t even understand?

The first of the apology statements should involve generating an understanding of the issue and validating the customer’s feelings.

Apology statements:

• If I am understanding you correctly [paraphrase their complaint]

• I understand how [customer’s feelings – i.e frustrating, upsetting, disruptive] this problem has been for you

• I understand how [issue] must have impacted your [workflows etc.]

2. Accepting responsibility

After proving that you understand the problem, comes the apology. It’s not enough to simply type ‘I’m sorry’ and be done with it. In fact, there are a lot of ways that this can go wrong.

The key to these apology statements is two-fold. First, don’t hide from the responsibility or shift the blame. Second, tailor each apology to each customer and each issue.

Apology statements:

• I’m sorry that you’ve had to deal with [issue]

• I am sorry that we failed to [cause of issue] and you’ve had to deal with the outcome

• I’m sorry this failure on our part has impacted you and your [workflows etc.]

3. Explain and solve

Saying sorry for the problem in customer service is not enough of an apology, however. There’s more that needs saying. Apologies are all well and good, but you still need to prove that you mean it.

The more you apologise to a customer, the less it means. It’s only effective if you solve the problem. So, explain why the problem occurred and how you are addressing it — for this customer personally, and to prevent a recurrence.

Apology statements:

• The issue happened because we [what caused the issue]. To prevent it from happening again [what you will do]

• We care deeply about your experience and we failed to meet our regular quality standards. We should have been more careful, and I’m very sorry for the issues it has caused you.

4. Gratitude

Finally, you should always end your apology by showing gratitude to the customer. Thanking the customer is a great way to turn the experience from a frustrating issue, into water under the bridge. This is also a good opportunity to reiterate your apology.

The customer has taken the time to get in touch, sit through the chat with you, and allow you to make things right. By thanking them, you show the customer that you appreciate this, and start to return the chat to a state of positive equilibrium.

Apology statements:

• Again, I’m deeply sorry this has happened to you. It’s not the experience we wish to create for any of our customers. Thank you for bringing it to our attention and allowing us to address it.

• Thank you for bearing with us through this incident. If there’s anything else I can help you with, please let me know.

Anti-apology statements

That’s how to apologise to a customer. But there are few pitfalls to be wary of. As a bonus, here are a few statements you should avoid.

‘But’ makes this statement an excuse, not an apology.

You aren’t accepting responsibility, or even recognising there’s a problem or issue that you need to fix.

• We apologise for the inconvenience

It’s not personal, it’s robotic and unfit for purpose.

How to apologise to a customer

Ideally, you don’t want to have caused problems for your customers. They would never need to complain, and you would never need to apologise.

But mistakes happen, systems crash. Apologies are a fact of life. So, when the time comes, use efficient apology statements to get things back on track.

You have the apology statements, now get the chat channel.

Feeling like a bonehead? Write your apology with carefully-chosen words.

Choose a topic to view apology letter templates:

37 Popular Letters Related to Apology Letters

Business Apology Letter

Use a serif font
Type this apology letter on your computer using a serif font, such as Times Roman or Georgia, and print it on good-quality, bright-white paper.

Use a formal business letter format
such as full block or semi-block.

Offer your apology in the beginning of the letter
Clearly state the problem: “Please accept my apology for being unable to give you a definitive answer at this time. ” or “We apologize for whatever inconvenience this may cause you, but. ”

Give some explanation for what happened
“Our committee has not yet completed its investigation into. ” or “In order to err on the side of caution, this toy has been recalled by the manufacturer. ”

Focus on what actions you are taking to rectify the problem
“We are happy to offer you a full refund. ” or “We will be happy to notify you as soon as we receive the information you requested. ”

Hand-sign the apology letter with a black pen.

Remember: Say you are sorry as soon as wisdom dictates!
You will find that an apology letter will not only help save your friendships and your business associates, it can also dissolve a small problem and keep it from snowballing into a big one!

Always be honest and ethical
I know that it pays to always choose the right. Be honest in all your business and personal dealings. Decide to always tell the truth. If you go the extra mile to be ethical, your business will improve and you will feel much better about yourself.

Personal Apology Letter

Handwrite this apology letter carefully; don’t type it on a computer.

Express your apology in the beginning of your letter:
“I am so sorry. ” or “I want to apologize. ”

State exactly what you did wrong early in the apology letter:
“I shouldn’t have lost my temper when. ” or “I have looked all over, but I’m afraid I have lost your book. ”

Accept responsibility for what you did and don’t blame the other person:
“I accept full responsibility for what happened. ” or “I know this was completely my fault. ”

Promise in your apology letter not to repeat your offensive action
Ask the injured party to give you an opportunity to prove this to them.

Suggest that the two of you get together
Meet at a restaurant or some other nonthreatening place so that you can apologize in person and begin to rebuild your relationship.

How to apologize

Everybody makes mistakes. It’s a fact of life, and we all have to take a moment to express our regret from time to time.

So how do you teach your ESL students how to apologize in English? After all, not every culture has the same expectations when it comes to apologies. In U.S. culture, a good apology contains 6 parts.
Here is the anatomy of a good apology that you can present to your ESL students when they are learning to say I’m sorry.

The Anatomy of a Good Apology

A request for their attention

Before apologizing, the offender needs to ask the offended for their attention. Depending on who the offended person is, the request may be casual, informal or formal. A person might start with a phrase like ‘excuse me, can we talk about something’, or ‘I wanted to talk to you about what happened yesterday’.

An admission of what happen

The next step in apologizing is to state what happened without making excuses. The speaker might say something like ‘I know I hurt your feelings’, ‘I caused a problem’, or ‘I forgot to do something’. The speaker should be honest and respectful of the other person.

A Sincere Admission

The third piece of an apology is a sincere admission that you did something wrong. The apologizer can say something like ‘I messed up’, ‘I made a mistake’, or ‘I should not have done that’. The more specific the speaker can be, the better received the apology will be.

The apology

Step four is the actual apology. These words are what makes an apology an apology. The speaker should say ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘I apologize’. Speakers should be careful to say ‘I’m sorry I…’ rather than ‘I’m sorry you…’ or ‘I’m sorry if…’ The two latter phrases are likely to cause more offence or increase anger in the already offended.

Some humor (optional)

Depending on how close the apologizer is to the offended person, he might choose to include humor to lighten the mood. This can help diffuse a tense atmosphere or melt the anger of the offended person. Particularly helpful is self deprecating humor, something that pokes fun at the person who offended.

Time to forgive

Finally, the offended person should have time to forgive the offender. Depending on how serious the situation is, this may take seconds or days or even longer. Someone offering a good apology gives the other person time to resolve his or her feelings and seek reunification. It is key to avoid putting pressure on the offended party.

Now that your students know what they should include in a good apology, give them a chance to practice.

Role plays are great for this type of language practice. Start by brainstorming with your class different situations that would demand an apology like the ones below. These situations should range from the minor inconveniences, honest mistakes and serious offences.

Then brainstorm a list of phrases your students might use when making apologies in each of these situations. Once students have a plan and the vocabulary for their apology, have pairs of students choose a situation and role play an apology to one another. Make sure each student plays the role of the offender and the offended. If you like, have students come to the front of the class and perform their apologies for the class. This can be a fun activity for particularly dramatic students, and you can encourage entertainment and humor.

How to apologize

You’ve screwed up. Bad. We all do it, but you’ve got some serious apologizing to do. You need to be careful because you can easily dig yourself into an even bigger hole than you were originally in.

Apologizing can be a seriously sticky situation. It can get ugly really quick. So be very careful when planning an apology.

Each person has different reactions. Some jump to anger, some cry, some give you the silent treatment. Be prepared. You can’t go in with all your emotions swinging.

The first step is to mean it when you apologize. If you’re not genuine, you’re not going to get anywhere with your apology.

Then you have to approach the situation based on who you’re apologizing to. Whether it’s your girlfriend, boyfriend, mother or friend, you’ve got to approach it differently.

Every zodiac sign reacts differently when you approach them to apologize, so take caution.

You may be approaching someone angry or hurt, so just be genuine and serious.

And if you’re still not quite sure if you’ve got this under control, here’s how to apologize to each zodiac sign when you’ve messed up bad.

Aries (March 21 – April 19)

Be ready to kiss some serious butt, because Aries will never let you get away with anything less. Also be prepared for some yelling from Aries’ aggressive side, because it’s likely to come out the moment you start to apologize.

Let her release all that anger because as soon as she’s done, she’s ready for a serious conversation about what you both can do to make the situation better.

Taurus (April 20 – May 20)

Taurus loves to have productive and responsible conversations, so don’t even bother beating around the bush. She will likely listen to what you say, but really she just wants to talk about how she feels and why she’s right, because she’s about as stubborn as they come.

Don’t even think about trying to compromise, because she won’t. Just say you’re sorry, she’s right, and move along!

Gemini (May 21 – June 20)

Don’t leave Gemini hanging too long — she hates being alone.

The silent treatment won’t work at all on this one, so get to apologizing as quick as possible or she will likely be having a nervous breakdown while waiting for your apology.

She will change how she feels a million times during your apology, but don’t lose patience or they may break down again. Be gentle with this softie!

Cancer (June 21 – July 22)

It won’t be too difficult to apologize to Cancer; she will probably accept any apology you give her.

As long as you don’t make her cry, she’ll always forgive you. Don’t take advantage of this, because Cancer is so loyal, she often doesn’t know when someone is walking all over her.

Be kind and mean what you say, because you may end up hurting her more in the end with empty promises.

Leo (July 23 – August 22)

Let Leo run the show when you go in to apologize or you better watch out. This girl has a feisty attitude.

She will really push your buttons and probably make you feel really crappy about whatever it is you’re apologizing for. The best advice is to do what she says or pay the price, because this one is seriously savage.

Virgo (August 23 – September 22)

Virgo will probably make you feel really bad, so your apology will probably be as genuine as they come.

She has a tendency to be overly critical of herself and others, so her self-esteem will definitely be a topic of discussion during your apology. The best thing to do is make her feel loved and appreciated despite whatever it is that you did.

Libra (September 23 – October 22)

This may be the easiest apology of a lifetime. Libra loves to cooperate and is incredibly diplomatic, so she’ll be right there with you throughout the entire apology making sure you both are on the same page.

Be careful, because she carries a grudge like no other, so get on her good side or you will definitely regret it later.

Scorpio (October 23 – November 21)

Step one: physical touch. A hug, a hand-hold, whatever it is, that physical closeness makes apologizing to a Scorpio a million times easier.

They also have a pretty bad temper, so be prepared for some dramatic slamming of doors before she comes back and cuddles next to you. She’s quick to anger but once she simmers down she’ll open up for you.

Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)

As long as you didn’t make her jealous, Sagittarius is the easiest to apologize to. She’s pretty understanding about everything. She takes life lightly, so you have to seriously mess up to piss her off!

Just be as sincere as possible, make her laugh and you should be set.

Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)

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She is about as unforgiving as they come, so the moment you screw up, they pretty much hate you. It’s worth a shot trying to apologize, but best of luck to you.

Be cautious, expect to apologize, like, at least 100 times, and you should probably bring her some sort of gift to make up for it.

Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)

Get ready for some passive-aggressiveness, because that’s what Aquarius knows best.

She’s pretty stubborn and uncompromising, so start out firm with your apology and don’t give her the chance to storm off, because she probably will. She runs from emotions, so it’s less about her forgiving you and more about her hiding from her feelings.

Pisces (February 19 – March 20)

Pisces is a dreamer and an artist, so when you hurt her feelings or make her mad, she tends to go silent. She enjoys time alone, but when it’s charged by an argument, she lets herself wallow and play the victim.

Don’t let her run from you or write broody poetry alone in her room; corner her and force her to listen to your apology. Once she actually hears you out, maybe she’ll be a bit more understanding.

Don’t go too far though, obviously. If she needs her space and isn’t budging, let her be on her own for a bit until you try it again. Honestly, she’ll probably be appreciative of you taking real time to make things better.

People rarely point out the CEO’s mistakes, so you first need to own yours and then offer a sincere and authentic apology that fosters better communication.

How to apologizeYears ago, while riding my bike, I bumped into a man walking in the opposite direction. At the time, I was living in Germany, but I instinctively blurted out “I’m sorry!” in English. Not sure whether he understood me, I corrected myself with the German version, “Tut mir leid,” which literally translates as, “it causes me suffering.”

It causes me suffering. Isn’t that so much more powerful than sorry?

He was probably too far away to hear me at that point, but my first apology was inadequate and meaningless. Not only was it said in the wrong language, but it communicated the wrong sentiment. As leaders, we need to know how to say sorry professionally, using the right verbiage and the right mindset.

This isn’t something you learn in a classroom, on the job or culturally if you’re from the United States or Great Britain. Most Americans and Brits often pepper their speech with the casual “sorry.” A CNBC piece noted that 58% of Americans say they’re sorry when they are trying to do someone a favor but don’t meet the mark—even when it’s not their fault.

This seems innocent, but as a CEO, responses like this are transparently throwaway. Employees and customers know this because it’s a line they use themselves. They expect and deserve authentic, thoughtful apologies when apologies are needed.

Bob was an executive who received some surprising 360-degree feedback. His self-rating was significantly higher than the rating his team members gave him. Upon seeing this, Bob made a surprising admission: “I’ve changed my style significantly over the past three years. The team is rating me as I was several years ago.” One of his colleagues replied, “He’s right. But I’m still angry because he never apologized for the leader he was.”

Why don’t leaders apologize? Bob wanted his team to focus on the future. Yet it was his lack of a sincere apology that kept his team trapped in the past. As a result, his assessment showed a wide disconnect between his team members and himself. This is a common occurrence: Three in 10 employees say their managers don’t foster open, transparent communication (which includes proper apologies), according to SHRM’s 2019 report.

To prevent finding yourself with the same problem, learn how to say sorry professionally. Adopt the following strategies:

1. Own your mistakes. People rarely point out a CEO’s errors. If you know you’re responsible, don’t be dismissive. Saying “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I’m sorry if that’s the case” shifts the blame off you. Instead, show that you understand why you’re at fault and say, “I apologize.”

2. Use “sorry” appropriately. When you drop “I am…” or turn it into a contraction, you reduce the sincerity and power of your apology. Track the times you say the full phrase and write down what happened. You should see a positive difference as a result of your verbiage and delivery.

3. Determine whether you need to apologize. If you’ve done no harm, don’t use “sorry” as a placeholder for what you really mean to say. For example, if your calendar is backed up, don’t say, “I’m sorry; my capacity is low.” Instead, say “no” succinctly: “We’ll need to reschedule that for later.” Or if someone sends you a reminder, let them know you appreciate it by saying, “Thanks for being on top of that.”

Regularly practice how to apologize without saying “sorry” in business and personal circumstances. You’ll show that you’re a self-assured, poised leader with high emotional intelligence and a low tolerance for trivial, disingenuous rhetoric.

Admitting that you did or said something wrong, and then apologising to someone for it, can be nerve-racking and scary. Here are some tips that can make it a little easier.

This can help if:

  • you need to apologise to someone
  • you don’t know the best way to express yourself in a difficult situation
  • you find it hard to get stuff off your chest.

How to apologize

Why saying ‘sorry’ is hard

Everyone behaves badly sometimes, even good people. Unfortunately, when you’re faced with owning up to jerk-like behaviour, your brain has to work overtime to convince you that you’re the one in the wrong. That’s not a pleasant experience.

Apologising is hard because we don’t want to feel bad about ourselves. We try to have a positive image of ourselves, and our need to protect that can make sincerely apologising quite hard.

Why owning up to our mistakes is important

Not being able to own up to our mistakes and to apologise sincerely to someone when we need to can harm every area of our life, including in the workplace, the classroom and our relationships. It can also prevent us from growing and learning from our experiences.

Steps for saying you’re sorry

1. Before you do anything, practise self-affirmation

It’s important to start by saying a few positive words to yourself. This is known as ‘self-affirmation’ and has a positive impact on the way you see yourself. Self-affirmation has been shown to improve self-confidence and self-esteem, while reducing stress and anxiety.

Reflect on your values and your great personal qualities – such as your talents and hobbies, your successes at work or at school, or the positive ways you treat family members and friends. For example, you could say to yourself something like: ‘I’m great at coming up with creative ideas,’ or ‘I’m kind towards everyone I meet.’

Using self-affirmation before offering someone an apology can actually help make your apology more genuine and sincere. By reminding yourself of your good qualities, you’re letting your guard down and showing yourself that ‘Hey, there are so many great things about you, one mistake doesn’t change anything.’

2. Spell out why you want to apologise

It might sound obvious, but the first part of an apology is to clearly state what you have done before saying you’re sorry for it. It also shows the other person that you understand what you did wrong. It might be helpful to rehearse exactly what you’re going to say before you apologise.

For example, you might say: ‘I snapped at you yesterday.’

3. Admit you were wrong

It’s important to show the other person that you’re willing to take responsibility for your actions and to admit that you were wrong.

For example, you might say: ‘It was wrong of me to talk to you the way I did.’

4. Acknowledge the other person’s feelings

A good apology includes showing you’re aware of how your actions have impacted the other person. This tells them you understand why they feel hurt.

For example, you might say: ‘I understand you must have felt really upset, angry and confused.’

5. Say you’re sorry

Show that you’re sincere with a plain ol’ ‘I’m sorry.’ Keep it simple, and don’t tack a ‘but…’ onto the end of that sentence.

6. Ask them to forgive you

Ask for forgiveness by saying: ‘I know it will take time, but I really hope we can still be friends,’ or ‘Is there anything I can do to make this right?’ This lets the other person know that your relationship with them is really important to you.

Show that you’re sorry

Showing, not just saying, that you regret what you have done is an important part of apologising. If possible, think about how you can fix the problem and make things right. For example, if you lost or broke something that belonged to someone else, you could help them replace it.

However, some things can’t be fixed, such as when you’ve said something hurtful to a friend. In this instance, the best thing to do is to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and to show by your actions that you’re sincerely sorry. If you’ve realised that there’s a problem that you can work on, you could also mention this, to show that you’re taking steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

For example, you might say: ‘I realise that I struggle with controlling my anger, and it’s not fair to other people when I snap at them. I’m trying to be more aware of when this happens.’

It takes a lot of courage to admit that you’ve made a mistake and to apologise for it. It’ll be scary at first, but in the long run, learning how to do this sincerely can really improve your relationships with the people around you. You’ve got this.

What can I do now?

  • Rehearse what you’re going to say before you start to apologise. If you want to say ‘sorry’, but you feel too anxious, you might think about putting your apology in writing.
  • After you’ve apologised, give the other person some time to think about what you have said, then check in with them later to see how they are feeling.
  • Head to the ReachOut Forums for more advice and tips.

Explore other topics

It’s not always easy to find the right place to start. Our ‘What’s on your mind?’ tool can help you explore what’s right for you.

In this article, we are going to provide you with some tips about how to apologize for late response. Working with clients is not an easy job and you should be attention whatever you say to them. Sometimes, it happens that they are becoming very frustrated because they don’t receive the expected response asap. But sometimes, they understand that you can be so quick because there are other people that are involved in the solution.
Don’t panic, just say in the magic word ”Sorry” in the proper way and situation.

Should I use apologize or apologies?

Apologize is used in American English.

Apologise /Apologies is used in British English.

However, they mean the same thing but there’s a little difference.

Examples:

1. I apologize for the late response. (Apologize is used as a verb)
2. My apologies for the late response. (Apologies is used as a verb)
3. You can accept my apology for the late response. (Apology is used as a noun)

All of them are acceptable and you can either use them in a formal or informal e-mail.

How you should NOT apologize for late response?

Examples:

– Sorry for the delay in responding, I forgot to answer you.
– I am really really sorry for the late response.
– Apologies, I saw your message but I didn’t have time to answer you.
– Apologies for the delayed response. It’s not going to happen again.

Sorry or Apologize?

Sorry- an informal way to express your feelings. However, if you have become closer with the client (had several conversations, talked many times on the phone), you can always say ”Sorry”.

Apologize – a formal way to express your feelings.

Response or Reply?

The meaning is the same. Both are synonyms.
The only difference is that ”Response” is more formal than ”Reply”.

Why sometimes you should AVOID apologies?

You should not exaggerate the use of the word ‘Apology’ because the person on the other side will feel superior to you and can sometimes feel more powerful. Everything has its measure!
For example, you send a message that you apologize for the late response and after a couple of hours, you send the same message. You should avoid it!

How to apologize

How to answer when the customer apologize to you?

You should not answer anything. You can continue to talk about your topic and disregard the late response.

What timeframe is fine to say sorry?

Depends on the reason why you have delayed with the answer:

If you have been collecting information and the customer is aware of that:
– It’s okay to answer 1-2 days later but if you answer after one week you can add the magic word – Apology;

Nothing special, just some simple question:
If you answer after 4-5 hours after their question:
– It’s okay to avoid the word – Apology;

If you answer after 1-2 days after their query:
– You should say – Apology;

Reasons why you have delayed your response:

Apologize, I was gathering information internally;
Apologize, I was pending our responsive team;
Apologize, I was out of the office;
Apologize, I had to accidentally leave the office earlier;
Apologize, I was on a meeting/event;
Apologize, I’m just back at the office after a week’s flu;
Apologize, I was on sick leave;
Apologize, I was pending my line manager;
Apologize, I had issued with my Outlook;

Sometimes you are able to avoid the word ”Apology” as simply provide regular updates that you are working on their request.
You can find our examples to apologize for the late response here:

How to apologize

It can happen in an instant. One minute you are engaging in a promising conversation with your crush; next, you attempt a joke or make a comment that falls short and is taken the wrong way. Now your crush is offended, and your chances of developing a relationship may be ruined. The only way to salvage what could have been is to make an apology that will make your would-be romantic partner forget your feeble attempt at humor or lack of conversational skills.

Step 1

Avoid becoming defensive; instead, consider the implications of your words, suggests clinical psychologist Elvira G. Aletta, Ph.D., in “7 Ways to Give an Apology and 4 Ways to Accept One,” published on PsychCentral. Ignore your instinct to excuse your own behavior; remember that your intentions and her perceptions may be completely different. Think about how what you said may have been taken, and consider alternative ways you could have phrased your thoughts.

Step 2

Acknowledge your wrongdoing to your crush. Let your crush know that are aware of your offense. Approach your crush cautiously and ask for a moment to talk before explaining your sorrow at the offense. Doing so demonstrates your willingness to take responsibility for your actions, reports counselor David Bedrick, author of “Talking Back to Dr. Phil: Alternatives to Mainstream Psychology,” in “Psychology Today.”

Step 3

Express empathy and self-awareness as you show your crush you understand the depth of your wrongdoing, Bedrick goes on to say. Explain that upon further reflection, you see the inappropriateness of your choice of words. Emphasize the importance of your budding relationship and how much you don’t want your actions to affect it.

Step 4

Speak with sincerity, says Dr. Aletta. Your apology will mean nothing if your crush feels you don’t actually mean it. Ensure your intentions are sincere and make a completely genuine apology. Show vulnerability in your apology, while also expressing how deeply you want to make things right.

Step 5

Depending on the nature of your offense, Dr. Aletta suggests bringing a small token, such as flowers, to show your sincere sorrow over your offense. Don’t go overboard in choosing a gift, and don’t have an expectation that presenting your crush with flowers will smooth everything over. Instead, use the gift as an opportunity to open the door and demonstrate the sincerity of your apology.

Step 6

Drop the issue once your crush has heard your apology. Give the recipient of your apology time to accept your words without pushing the topic any further. Understand that your crush may neither want to forgive you nor have any interest in getting to know you further. If that is the case, continuing to apologize won’t make a difference. Respect your would-be romantic partner’s boundaries if your apology is not well-received.

When you’ve screwed up, the best you can do is recover.

We all make mistakes that inconvenience other people (well, I don’t, but it would be a mistake to say so out loud). This screws up our relationship with them, and so … we need to repair it. We need to apologize. In my episode on the five apology languages, we learned that there are many ways to phrase an apology. But when you really screw up and waste someone’s valuable time, just saying “sorry” or “it won’t happen again” doesn’t cut it. We need to make sure the message really gets through when things don’t go according to plan.

They’re upset because you wasted their time? Demonstrate that you value their time more than yours. Craft an apology that shows significant time and effort. You’ll make an impression that lasts a lifetime.

Mistakes HappenHow to apologize

Because he’s been so good at stepping up to the plate, Bernice asked intern MG to scout possible locations for the Green Growing Things corporate headquarters. He scored a coup, talking his way into a meeting with Alex, the most exclusive real estate agent in town, who normally deals only with the Most Important People In Town. They were meeting on the 80th floor of Strump Tower.

On the day of the meeting, MG woke up early, just to be safe. He put on his best clothes, put on his coat, picked up his phone to check the bus schedule … and ended up on Facebook, in an engaging discussion of the upcoming Presidential election. The next thing he knew, a text message came through from Alex. “Weren’t we supposed to meet at 10? I’m almost done with my raspberry protein smoothie and am heading to my next appointment. You lose, kid.” It was 10:30. Oops.

MG was crushed. He prides himself on never having missed a meeting or an assignment. That’s why we hired him. (That’s also why we hate him. Ha ha. Kidding!) Being practically perfect in every way, he had never let anyone down before. He didn’t know how to do it. His first thought was to call Alex with excuses. “My alarm clock didn’t go off.” “My train stalled.” “The dog ate my homework.” No. No, no, no, no, no.

When someone disappoints you and offers excuses, you never think, “That’s such a good excuse! They’re obviously super-competent!” A good excuse may help counteract a bad impression, but it isn’t going tip the scales in your direction. The right apology, however, will.

Write Out Your Apology Using All Apology Languages

Write out your apology in advance. Make sure it uses all five apology languages. MG wrote “I’m so sorry for missing the meeting. I feel horrible about it, I accept full responsibility, and in the future, I’ll make sure it won’t happen again. Please forgive me.”

Unless you naturally use all five apology languages, some will come more naturally than others. So actually compose it, making sure you use all five languages.

Once you’ve written your apology, don’t email it! Think about how that looks. Alex got a meeting request from a young millennial. Said millennial then missed the meeting. From Alex’s point of view, MG is just another flaky kid. Getting an emailed apology is exactly, precisely what Alex expects. Because, hey, these days, email is so very, very convenient.

If someone wasted your time by missing an appointment, getting an email apology is just reinforcing the message that the way they operate is to do whatever’s easiest and the least amount of effort for them.

How to apologize

Molly Hitchens studied business for years before launching her career as a journalist and analyst specializing in original and innovative business planning. She shares her expertise through her work with The Idea Trader as well as through in-person speaking engagements at universities around the country.

“Your Customer is King, and the customer is always right.” Do you know how to apologize to a customer for a mistake? What do you do when you handle a customer in a way that causes he or she to take offense?

Statistics show that an aggrieved customer is more likely to share a bad experience with his/her circle of friends than when he/she has had a good experience.

For this reason, if you make a mistake, you have to apologize promptly and efficiently. In this article, we will discuss how to apologize to a customer for a mistake and still save your business image.

How to Apologize to a Customer for a Mistake: The 3 Approaches

Apologize Immediately

When you make a mistake, do you assume that the customer will not take it too seriously? Or do you go out of your way to make amends before everything spills out of proportion? How long do you take to acknowledge your mistake?

As a professional, you should never let the mistake escalate to unmanageable levels. Apologize immediately, as soon as the mistake happens. By doing so, your client will view you as considerate and will most likely not overreact.

Take a Solution-Oriented Approach

Sometimes we know how to apologize to a customer for a mistake. However, if the timing is wrong, the customer will not receive the apology well.

How to apologize

By offering possible solutions to salvage the situation, the customer can become loyal and a valuable ambassador for your products or services. It could also initiate the process of trying to save your business’s tarnished public image.

Possible solutions include:

  • Discounts
  • Refunds
  • Rebates
  • Complementary products and services

This approach may remedy the situation or provide relief to the customer.

The product or service you offer as an apology should be of an equal scale to the initial product or service that is in dispute. Never offer your old products and services as freebies to your customer. You don’t want to run the risk of the customer rejecting your counteroffer.

Let the Customer Take Charge

One way of showing appreciation to a customer is by involving them in coming up with better processes that deal with the root cause of your conflict. If possible, ask your clients for feedback on how he/she would want to see things done in the future.

Rectify the root cause of the mistake. Change your policies and processes to reflect the learning curve.

And, most importantly, let the customers know that you have considered their opinions in coming up with new policies. This approach is the only sure way to ensure such an error will not happen again.

How to apologize

How to Structure the Apology

Apply Empathy

Take the customer’s perspective and look at the mistake you just made. How does it make you feel? Use words such as “Sorry,” and “I understand,” to show empathy to the affected customers. However, you must genuinely look for the real reason why the client is unhappy.

Your mistake could have broken the trust the customer had in your services. This broken trust could have further led to delays on the customer’s side. When apologizing for a mistake that has had ripple effects, ensure you acknowledge all the damage caused because of your error.

Usually, an aggrieved customer is either angry or very dissatisfied with your products or services. Such a customer may, in a moment of rage, take irrational action against you or your products and services.

To mitigate the damage, showing empathy helps in cooling down emotions. It also replaces these emotions with rational reasoning.

Be Specific

Do you understand the mistake you or your organization made? Use words that address the situation clearly. For example, if you know the customer by name, address him/her individually.

Avoid this familiar phrase, “We apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused.”

This phrase is often misused and overused by large corporations. Instead, use one of these sentence structures to make a direct apology:

  • I am sorry for our mistake.
  • I apologize for not meeting the project deadline.
  • I am deeply sorry for the delay in delivery of your product as earlier agreed.

How to apologize

Offer a Self-Explanatory Apology

After you have shown empathy and offered a direct apology, provide a brief explanation of what could have caused the mistake. Be careful not to come across as passing the buck.

Use a series of questions to find out the root cause of the mistake. Once you have singled out the reason, explain it to the customer in summary and move on.

Here is a quick example:

The mistake: Client complains they received stale food

The apology: I am sorry the takeaway food delivered to your house was stale.

The questions to find out the root cause would be as follows:

Q. Why was the food stale?

A. Because the food was not freshly cooked.

Q. Why was the meal not freshly cooked?

A. Because the head chef was absent on Monday.

Q. Why was the head chef not in on Monday?

A. Because he took emergency leave and we had no quick replacement. That is the root cause of the mistake.

So, when you are drafting your apology, it should sound like this:

“I am sorry the takeaway food delivered to your house was stale. We currently handle fewer orders due to a shortage of kitchen staff.”

How to apologize

Using this explanation does not shift the blame on the food suppliers or the delivery person. It blames the root cause of the mistake.

In Conclusion

At the end of the day, as human beings, we are all bound to make mistakes. The first step is usually an apology. However, a customer’s apology must have the right structure.

Clearly define the mistake, who it has affected, the potential effect this mistake has on the customer, and how you intend to remedy the situation now and in the future.

Remember that from the customer’s perspective, it doesn’t matter who caused it, he/she views it collectively as having being created by your company. But now that you understand how to apologize to a customer for a mistake, turn your disgruntled customer into a loyal one.

How to apologize

In relationships, we hurt one another. Sometimes we do it on purpose, and sometimes we had no idea that we offended our partner. Once we realize that we inflicted pain on them, whether we intend to or not, the correct thing to do is to say, “I’m sorry” and repair the damage.

How to Apologize Sincerely

Apologizing can feel extremely difficult, if not impossible. Saying, “I’m sorry” is hard. It makes us feel vulnerable and, in general, is a very challenging enterprise.

Before we offer an apology of any kind, we must prepare ourselves for either no response or a wide range of responses from the other person (including negative ones). Depending on the degree or nature of the hurt, it may take your partner awhile to accept your attempt at repairing the relationship. But if you’re truly sorry, be prepared for forgiveness to take some time.

If you’re unsure how to apologize in a way that conveys your sincerity, here are 10 powerful ways to do so.

1. Say it with words.

Say the actual words “I’m so sorry” and then add exactly what you are sorry for. Let your spouse know that you’re aware of the actions and words that caused the hurt. Name your crime specifically when you say, “I’m sorry.”

2. Say it with a look.

Don’t fake remorse because doing so will likely do more damage. When you apologize, make sure you have a genuine look on your face that you really are sorry.

Saying the words but having a smirk, grin, air of indifference, or some other expression will tell your partner that you are trying to say the right thing, but you don’t mean it.

3. Say it with a touch.

When you know that your partner is ready to hear the words “I’m sorry,” add a soft and gentle touch. Don’t use a sexual touch, but, rather, a touch that communicates “I care about you, and I want you to be okay.”

4. Say it with a note.

Struggle to say the right words? Try writing a note that expresses how you feel about what happened. Convey that you’re sorry, and also add a little about how you think your actions may have made your spouse feel.

Let her/him know that even if it takes some time, you want their forgiveness. Avoid trying to explain why it happened, as that may only do more damage — save that for a later time.

5. Say it with a gift.

A small gift or token can help repair the damage that was done. You can give this gift with a note or when you actually say the words, “I’m sorry.”

Be careful not to overuse this method of making amends, however. You don’t want your partner to think you believe you can buy her/him off with a gift and then repeat your offensive behavior again later.

6. Say it with emotion.

When a woman feels hurt, the emotions associated with that hurt get attached to the memory of that event. When something reminds her of the event, the hurt has a way of returning full force, as if the event just happened again. When you say, “I’m sorry” to her, try to do so in a way that has some emotion attached to it.

Note: Using humor is not always a good choice here. She needs to see in your face and hear in your voice (as well as through your words) that you fully understand that you hurt her, you take responsibility for it, and your hope is that you can repair the damage you’ve done.

7. Say it with an act of service.

Is there a particular task that your partner wants done that you’ve been putting off? Now might be the perfect time to do it.

Don’t do this as a payoff for your crime or with the expectation that all is forgiven. Just do what you’ve neglected doing and, later, when you say, “I’m sorry,” you can let her know that part of your gift to repair what you have done is that you took care of the task you know she wanted done.

8. Say it with a sacrifice.

If you know that what you did is particularly hurtful to your partner and/or if this is a repeat offense you were determined to never to do again, consider going the “extra mile.” Think of something you can do that will either be very meaningful to your partner or would get across the point that you fully recognize the negative impact of your action.

Take on a task/project that is really going to cost you something in the way of time and energy as a way of “paying for your crime.” You can let your partner know that you did this because you’re fully aware of the extent of the hurt you caused, and you want it to cost you something so that you never do it again.

9. Say it with understanding.

The point here is to let your partner know you understand some of what he/she may have felt as a result of what you have done. Think through how it might have affected you, but even more, consider how you think your partner felt.