The Professional Way to Apologize and Say Sorry in an Email

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The Professional Way to Apologize and Say Sorry in an Email
The Professional Way to Apologize and Say Sorry in an Email

Everyone makes mistakes. Nobody is flawless, no matter how hard we try. When you commit a mistake that causes someone else pain, you should apologize.

While you should always apologize in person, you may want or be required to do it by email. To assist you make the most of this scenario, let’s look at how to apologize properly in an email.

The Three Ingredients of a Proper Apology Email

Jimmy John's Apology Sign
Image Credit: sandphin/Flickr

While no uniform pattern exists, a commonly acknowledged norm for apologies consists of three parts:

  1. Recognizing that you made a mistake.
  2. Feeling guilt for your acts and being sympathetic to how they harmed the other person.
  3. Restitution is the act of setting things right.

We’ll go through each of these three components as we go over how to express apologize in an email.

How to Open Your Apology Email

Before you begin writing the real apology, you must address the person to whom you are writing. This will differ tremendously based on your connection with the individual.

Assume you’ve made a mistake in your work life and need to write an apologetic email to your supervisor. As an example, suppose you failed to perform a vital job on time, causing the project to be delayed for everyone else.

“Dear [Name],” would be a suitable greeting in this scenario. If you were apologizing to a buddy, “Hi [Name]” or “Hello [Name]” would be more appropriate.

Don’t overlook the subject line of the apology email. After you’ve mistreated someone, they may not be pleased to get an email from you.

Putting something in the subject line like “Please Accept My Apologies” or “I Am Sincerely Sorry” is a fantastic method to make it obvious what your letter is for right away. It is critical to avoid typical communication blunders in order to prevent diluting your message. Keep the topic simple so that people understand what your communication is about.

Acknowledging Your Mistake

I Am Sorry Sign
Image Credit: stevanovicigor/Depositphotos

Now that you’ve finished the introduction, it’s time to get to the meat of the apology. You must explicitly state the issue that occurred here. Accept responsibility for your actions; do not attempt to shift blame or create excuses for what occurred.

Here’s an example of what not to do in your apology email:

While I am aware that I have missed an important deadline, it is not my responsibility. I was working on this project with Paul, and he took up much too much of my time by asking me irrelevant questions. My computer also kept freezing up during the week, and IT was unable to check into it. So it’s not all my fault.

Even if everything above is correct, it does not make for a decent apology. This section must accept your share of the blame for the mistake.

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Something like this is much better:

I know I’ve missed a critical deadline. This project was critical to our department, and you put your faith in me to finish it on time. I am aware that my inability to perform this work on time has caused the project’s completion to be delayed. This reflects badly on our staff, and I apologize.

You’ve clearly stated what went wrong without attempting to minimize or divert it. This is one aspect of apologizing that is often overlooked nowadays.

Expressing Remorse for What You Did

Now that you’ve clearly stated your mistake, you must express regret for what transpired. Remember that whatever you did caused the other person grief, irritation, and other undesirable feelings. In a professional situation, it may have cost them time and money, or gotten them in trouble with their bosses.

Make it clear that you are sorry for the circumstance. Put yourself in their place and consider how your actions made them feel. Don’t explain your actions or claim you’re “sorry they feel that way” about what you did here.

The purpose of an apology is to mend a broken relationship, not to show that you were correct all along.

Here’s an example of how to frame this part of the apology:

I truly apologize for failing to meet my duties and finish the assignment you assigned to me on time. There are no justifications for this failure. I don’t enjoy knowing that I let my team down, and I’m sorry if it caused you shame during your meeting with the customer.

Your apologies will be more genuine if you express empathy. It allows you to step back for a minute and consider what someone else is going through.

Making Your Mistake Right

While words are essential, deeds carry much greater weight. Making apologies is necessary to demonstrate that you mean what you say. Taking action will either put the issue right (if feasible) or demonstrate that you will do your best not to repeat the same error.

Continuing with our example of missing a deadline, the following may be the reparation portion of the apologetic email:

To prevent missing deadlines in the future, I will contact you well in advance if I am afraid that I will not be able to do anything on time. I will be more mindful of how much time key tasks consume me, and I am ready to work additional hours outside of the office to ensure that they are completed. This will not occur again.

In certain cases, you may be unsure of how to compensate for your actions. In such circumstance, just ask, “What can I do to make this right?”

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The most crucial aspect of this step of the apology is to demonstrate how you intend to behave differently in the future to avoid the same problem from recurring.

How to Close Your Apology Email

Now all you have to do is properly close the communication. This is quite straightforward, but keep the tone acceptable. You should thank the receiver for taking the time to read your apologetic letter and wish them well.

It’s also a good idea to ask them to further discuss what you stated. This demonstrates that you are honest and open to further discussion. Thank you for taking the time to read this. If there is anything more you’d want to talk about, please contact me so we can figure it out. If you don’t wish to say “Sincerely,” alternative formal closings such as “Best regards” can do. You don’t need to state “With regrets” or anything like that since you’ve spent the whole email apologizing. We’ve gone through how to apologize properly in an email. However, before you begin composing your letter, evaluate if email is the proper venue for your apology. When it comes to apologies, email offers a lot of advantages. You may write your ideas in a simple and direct manner since there is no time limitation. If you need to apologize quickly, emailing allows you to reach them in a short period of time if meeting in person isn’t an option. In addition, unlike in-person apologies, you don’t have to be spontaneous or respond to what the other person says.

Here’s one way to close your professional apology email:

However, everything is not well. An email apology is less personal than an in-person (or phone) apology. Depending on your company’s arrangement, sending an email may look cowardly if appearing in person is possible. When you need to apologize for anything, don’t hide behind a screen.

Sincerely, [Your name]

Apologizing appropriately is an important life skill. Not everyone understands how to apologize properly, and a poor apology might leave the other person much more angry than before. You’ll be on your way to a healed relationship if you follow this simple instruction on how to say apologize in email.

Is Email the Right Medium for an Apology?

Remember that the ultimate purpose of an apology is to restore shattered trust. You’ve made a mistake, and the three primary stages outlined above are how you admit it and repair it. Make your apology about someone else, not about yourself.

Email certainly has benefits when it comes to apologies. Because there’s no time constraint, you can compose your thoughts in a clear and direct way. If a quick apology is in order, emailing lets you contact them in a short amount of time if meeting in person isn’t an option. And unlike in-person apologies, you don’t need to be spontaneous and react to what the other person says.

But it’s not all good. Email is less personal than an in-person (or phone call) apology. Depending on the setup of your company, sending an email may come across as cowardly if appearing in person is feasible. Don’t hide behind a screen when you need to apologize for something.

Say Sorry in an Email to Mend Mistakes

Apologizing properly is a valuable life skill. Not everyone knows how to do it, and a bad apology can leave the other person feeling even more frustrated than before. Use this basic guide on how to say sorry in email and you’ll be on your way to a repaired relationship.

Keep in mind that the ultimate goal of an apology is to rebuild the broken trust. You’ve done something wrong, and the three major steps above are how you own up to it and correct it. Don’t make your apology about yourself.

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