Is it too late now to say sorry?
Hopefully not—but it’s better late than never.
As much as you might like to just sweep everything under the rug and move on, the only way to really clear the air and make way for a fresh start is by apologizing and owning your mistakes.
It’s easy to get defensive, but acknowledging your errors isn’t admitting you’re a bad person; instead, it takes an honest person with integrity to admit they were wrong, and those are both very admirable qualities.
Why Apologies Are Important
When we ask for forgiveness, we’re placing ourselves in a vulnerable position. The other person might reject our apology, or even confront us with more uncomfortable details about how we made them feel.
But apologies are important because they help the wronged party to feel closure. Though there are some very good people who can forgive without ever receiving an apology, this closure certainly makes the process easier.
While the person you wronged might not be able to trust you again very easily, knowing that you’re willing to acknowledge and own your mistakes is certainly a step in the right direction.
And apologies aren’t just beneficial to their recipients—by owning your mistakes, you can begin to let go of some of the guilt or shame you’ve been harboring.
Of course, apologies should also be accompanied by action to be truly meaningful. This means you will make a conscious effort to either repair the situation, or to avoid making the same mistake in the future.
How to Apologize
Regardless of whether you put your apology in writing or opt for another gesture—like a phone call, gift, or personal meeting—there are a few things you should remember if you want your apology to be meaningful.
An apology that isn’t sincere holds no value. If you’re saying sorry just for the sake of saying sorry or to save face, then you might need to have a different conversation with your intended recipient.
If you’ve thought about it and you truly feel that you did nothing wrong or that you shouldn’t apologize, then don’t.
If you’re interested in salvaging the relationship, tell the other person how you feel and give them the chance to do the same. You might be able to come to a mutual understanding, but you should also be prepared for them to walk away.
Choose Your Words Carefully
There’s a difference between being sorry for your actions and being sorry for how someone feels a result of your actions.
It’s very possible that you’re sorry for how a person is feeling, even if you would make the same choice all over again. That’s perfectly fine.
But if you know you’ve done something wrong, don’t try to pass off an “I’m sorry you feel hurt” or “I’m sorry, but…” as an apology. If you know you messed up somehow, own it.
Use active language like, “I’m sorry I hurt you.” This illustrates your willingness to take accountability (when it’s your place to do so), and showing that you take responsibility for your actions will help the other party to trust you again.
You should know whether you need to use “my apology” or “my apologies”—nothing like poor grammar to mess up an otherwise perfect apology!
How to Write an Apology Letter
While there are dozens of ways to say “I’m sorry,” an apology letter goes the extra mile by immortalizing your words and showing the recipient that you are serious about making amends.
If you’re ready to own up to a mistake, make sure your apology letter (or any form of apology, really) includes the following elements:
- “I’m sorry for ________.” If you really want to apologize for your actions—and not just for how someone is feeling—then this all you need. No ifs, ands, or buts.
- Describe your role. This part is hard, but you should at least briefly describe your role in the situation and what you’re actually apologizing for. Otherwise, it might seem like you’re saying sorry just to say sorry. The recipient needs to know that you understand what you did wrong.
- Share your plan to fix things. Make a peace offering. Ask if there’s anything you can do for them. Explain how you’ll avoid making the same mistake in the future.
- Ask for forgiveness. This is where you’ll probably feel the most vulnerable, but that’s the point. Ask for forgiveness and another chance. The other party will appreciate your sincerity and humility.
Examples of Apology Letters
Below are several examples of apology letters for personal situations, for your boss, and for customers.
Personal Apology Letter Sample
If you need to make amends with a friend, relative, partner, or someone close to you, putting your feelings on paper is an excellent way to show them that you care and are truly sorry.
See this example of a personal apology letter:
I’m truly sorry I missed our date yesterday. I have no excuse for not showing up on time and keeping you waiting.
I understand you must be upset with me. I hate letting other people down, especially those I care about. Next time I will be better organized and find a way to contact you if I can’t make it, no matter what’s going on.
If you’ll accept my apology and allow me to make it up to you, I would love to take you to dinner tomorrow evening.
As you can see, you don’t need to write three volumes to express your remorse (although in some situations, that might not hurt). Simply acknowledging your mistake and promising you’ll make an effort to fix the situation should be enough.
Download our customizable personal apology letter template to help you pen the perfect apology.
Apology Letter for a Mistake at Work
Messing up at work is always stressful, especially when the person you owe an apology is your boss.
But this is another case in which it’s certainly better to take initiative and make amends, rather than hoping the whole things blows over.
Show your boss (or colleague) that you’re able to take responsibility and make things right by writing a professional apology letter.
I’m writing to express my sincerest apologies for not finishing my assignment in time for the presentation.
I understand that our work depends on the collaboration and efforts of the whole team, and I know I let you down.
I’ve made a plan to improve my time management skills so that I can meet all of my future deadlines. I hope you can accept my apology and give me another chance.
Please feel free to contact me if you wish to discuss the matter further.
If you need a little help choosing your words, download our customizable apology letter for work template.
Apology Letter to a Customer
Show your customers how much they matter to you by taking the time to make things right when they have a less than satisfactory experience.
See this example of an apology letter to a customer:
Dear Ms. Smith,
I’m writing to personally apologize on behalf of our company. I understand that your order was not delivered in a timely manner, and that is not acceptable.
We’re looking into what went wrong, and will work on finding a solution as quickly as possible so that this doesn’t happen again.
In the meantime, I’d like to offer you a voucher for $20 off your next purchase, should you decide to give us another chance.
Please accept our sincere apologies. We hope to work for you again in the future.
Download our customer apology letter template and use it to help you win back your customers’ loyalty.
Say Sorry with an Apology Letter
If you know you’ve let someone down and want to make amends, writing an apology letter is a great place to start.
You’ll show the other person that you’re sincerely sorry and committed to making things right, which will allow you to both move on and find closure.
How do you apologize? Share your thoughts in the comments below!