You screwed up. Is there a nicer way to say this? Maybe. Are there meaner ways to say this? Most definitely. But the fact of the matter is You. Screwed. Up. Now you have to do the adult thing and take responsibility for your actions, and apologize. Many people prefer a face-to-face apology. However, sometimes this can’t be done. Maybe you are afraid you’ll fluster your words, perhaps say something in anger and just make the situation worse. Maybe this was such a colossal screw up it affected a large number of people. Maybe the person you offended was so offended they relocated to get away from you. An apology letter might not fix everything, but it is a start in the right direction.
This could be a physical document, i.e., a piece of paper with writing, or an e-mail. Either way, it acknowledges the mistake, expresses regret, and respectfully asks for forgiveness or at least patience. Ideally, it would also express an attempt to make restitution if possible. It is important in a workplace environment because it is physical proof that you own their mistakes and try to make up for them.
Why is Writing an Apology Letter so Hard?
You might think that admitting to a mistake makes you a bad person. Actually, it’s a lack of empathy that makes someone a bad person. If you can empathize with someone you’ve hurt without getting defensive, you show them that one mistake does not reflect on who you are as a person. While apologizing can lead to more accusations, not apologizing can lead to resentment. You can’t control how someone feels, but you can at least try for what would be less toxic on the whole.
How to Start an Apology Letter
Following are the steps for starting an apology letter:
Acknowledge your mistake
Right off the bat, accept responsibility for what it is you did. Point out what you did and why it made them upset. Be sincere and humble while showing empathy.
“Dear Father Sullivan, I was the one who e-mailed you erotic fan fiction instead of the annual financial report for the orphanage. I recognize that this caused you embarrassment as well as inconvenience.”
You need to say the words “I am sorry”. Express regret the consequences. Don’t shift blame or give excuses.
“I am truly sorry for not paying more attention to what I attached to my e-mail. I feel terrible that you were exposed to graphic descriptions of furry bondage when you were counting on me to supply the figures needed to plan next year’s budget.”
Describe what happened
You can give an explanation, but not an excuse. Still acknowledge there was a wrong, and you intend to right it. This shows that you will back up your words with actions.
“I should not keep my work documents and my online hobby documents in the same file on my computer. I will keep them in separate files from now on. Please find the appropriate documentation attached to this message.”
Admit you were wrong
Humbly admit that this was your failing. You may politely request forgiveness on the understanding that you are owed nothing. Realize that the matter is not resolved until your relationship with the receiver is amended.
“The mistake was mine entirely. I should be more attentive.”
How to End an Apology Letter
Below are the guidelines on how to end an apology letter:
Share your plan to fix the problem
Propose something that can fix the problem you caused or at least appease the injured party. This may require some thought.
“I will be more attentive in the future. I am planning on getting a work computer so I can keep it separate from my ventures. For now, I apologize to you and anyone else I may have hurt.”
Ask for forgiveness
Make this a polite request. The injured party is under no obligation to forgive, but it’s nice to be asked.
“I humbly ask your forgiveness, Father. I understand fully how you were made upset by this matter, but I hope we can still work together in the future.”
Deliver the letter
If you are equals, you can e-mail the person. If the person is your superior, you may have to print it out and deliver it in person. In romantic relationships, you are equals, but handwritten letters are more meaningful.
Apology Letter Template
I am very sorry for (whatever it is you did). I understand that this resulted in (acknowledge the results of your actions). I truly regret this, and I am very sorry for any (hurt/ inconvenience/ embarrassment, etc.) this has caused. I accept full responsibility and hope you may forgive me. Rest assured, this behavior will not be repeated. For now, I propose to (describe a plan to rectify the situation.) Thank you for your time and consideration.
Sincerely, (Your name)
Types of Apology Letters
Following are different types of apology letters:
Tips for Writing an Apology Letter
Following are some tips for writing an apology letter:
- Be sincere: It needs to be an honest apology. No backhanded “I’m sorry you feel that way”. If you don’t honestly feel sorry, don’t bother.
- Be concise: The recipient may be owed a short explanation, but keep it short. They don’t need to wade through War and Peace when “I’m sorry” is enough.
- Be selfless: This is all on you. Don’t blame the recipient at all. Even if much of the fault was in someone else, accept your fault in trusting them.
A well-written apology letter can clear the air and make it known that this was but an aberration of who you truly are. It expresses that you accept your fallibility and wish to make amends to anyone you’ve hurt.
Apologies are never easy, but they are often necessary. It means taking responsibility for what you’ve done and facing the consequences of your actions. It can be unpleasant, but it is part of being a civilized adult.