Write this letter as soon as possible after the incident. Assume that your reader has good reasons for his or her hurt feelings. Often, it is best to apologize in person or with a handwritten note. Even so, these suggestions will help you organize your thoughts.
1. Begin with a straightforward apology. Do not rehash the incident, but be specific enough that your reader will know that you acknowledge your error.
- I am sorry I missed our appointment on Tuesday. I know it was an important one.
- I am sorry for the way I acted at your party last night. I could tell that you had put a lot of work into making sure everyone was having a good time. Everyone was, until my unfortunate comment.
- I'm sorry I didn't return your phone call.
- I am so sorry I forgot your birthday. My neglect was inexcusable. I always look forward to celebrating your birthday, so I was devastated when I realized I had forgotten it.
- I apologize if I offended you by not accepting the ride you offered me this morning.
- I am sorry that I let our conversation last night escalate into an argument. I should not have continued to pursue the issue.
- I apologize for not acknowledging your excellent performance in helping secure the Doe contract.
- I am sorry for snapping at you this morning.
- accept my apologies for any concern I have caused
- accept my apology for the unfortunate incident that
- am so sorry I forgot your birthday
- apologize for not acknowledging your excellent performance
- apologize for the concern I caused
- apologize if I offended you by
- apologize if this is the impression I gave
- apology for the inappropriate remarks
- behavior was very much out of character
- challenging circumstances can bring out the
- cringe every time I recall the remark that
- deeply regret that
- displayed poor judgment in
- feel guilty for having let this situation continue
- feel terrible because I think I may have hurt your feelings
- it was an important one
- it was certainly not my intention
- it was inexcusable
- just kept on pushing
- most inappropriate remarks
- not my usual reaction
- recognize that it has caused changes in
- should have backed off when
- sincerely regret my actions
- sorry for snapping at you this morning
- sorry for the way I acted at your party
- sorry I missed our appointment on
- sorry that I did not return your phone call
- sorry that I let our conversation escalate into
- the consequences of my actions may
- think I owe you an apology
- until my unfortunate comment
- want to extend an apology to you for my part in the
- was devastated when I realized that I had
2. Acknowledge the reader's pain, if appropriate.
- Thank you for the way you handled the incident at the time. I am sure I caused you an awkward moment. You showed remarkable restraint in quietly asking me to leave.
- I know it can be extremely frustrating when you have worked hard on a project only to see other people get the recognition.
- Jane, I know you were looking forward to our lunch date as much as I was. I am disappointed that my forgetfulness caused us to miss it.
- I know how frustrating it is to leave several urgent messages for someone and receive no response.
- I know it is annoying when someone misses an important appointment, so I sincerely appreciate your patience.
- I know it can be hurtful when you work hard on a project only to have your boss not acknowledge your efforts. I assure you that I did notice and appreciate your efforts, even though in the presentation I failed to mention it.
- I can imagine how hurt you must have been, so I am grateful for the kindness you showed me after the incident.
- after all you had done to
- am aware that you were justifiably hurt
- annoying when someone misses an important appointment
- apologize for the concern I caused you
- as disappointed as you are that
- can imagine how hurt you must have been when
- can imagine how upset you must have been
- can see why you felt that way
- can be hurtful when you work hard on a project only to have
- certainly didn't mean to hurt
- don't blame you for feeling
- extremely frustrating when you have
- feel bad that I caused
- grateful for the patience you showed
- have admirable self-restraint
- how frustrating it is to
- only to see other people get recognition
- realize that this caused
- realize you work hard to
- regret any embarrassment it may have caused you
- understand the hurt you feel
- understand the frustration that
- what I said must have put you in an awkward position
- wouldn't blame you for
3. Ask for forgiveness and indicate that you value your relationship with the reader.
- Please forgive me. I promise this will never happen again.
- Please forgive me for what I said and accept these flowers as a token of my regret and of the high esteem in which I hold you and your family.
- I am especially embarrassed about this since I value your friendship so much. Please forgive me.
- I value you as a colleague and friend. Please forgive me for my tactless oversight.
- I value your presence in class, and I am especially pleased when you share insights from your European experience.
- I love you and regret causing you any pain. Thank you for caring enough to share your feelings with me. Please forgive me for what I did. It won't happen again.
- accept these flowers as a token of
- accept this gift
- am committed to our relationship
- apologize for my part in the
- appreciate your decision to not
- are very special to me
- forgive me for my poor choice of words
- greatly respect you
- have missed you
- hope you will accept my apology
- hope we can put this unfortunate incident behind us
- hope you will consider a reinstatement for
- look forward to many good times
- please forgive me
- please forgive me for what I did
- please forgive me for my tactless oversight
- regret having hurt you
- truly appreciate all you have
- value your friendship so much
- value your presence in
- value you as a colleague and friend
- your friendship is very important to me
4. Explain your behavior if appropriate, but do not excuse it in any way.
- I was frustrated because my hard disk had just crashed, and I lashed out at the person who happened to be closest to me--you. I feel ashamed that I directed my anger toward you, especially since you were kind enough to help me.
- I did not mean to ignore you. Evidently, the tape on my answering machine needed to be replaced. It is now fixed, so call me anytime. I would love to hear from you.
- I was wrong. I have no excuse. I assure you this will not happen again.
- What I did was inexcusable. I can only promise to never do it again.
- I had already accepted John's offer for a ride, and I saw him coming just as you rolled down your window to ask me. I think car pooling is a great idea. If you want, I will swing by and pick you up tomorrow on the way to work.
- I can only explain my behavior by the terrible day I was having, but that is no excuse for treating you the way I did. I know your day was challenging, too.
- acted too hastily
- become so focused on a single goal that
- did not mean to ignore
- did not communicate well
- did not pay attention to
- didn't cope well with the pressures
- didn't handle the stress well
- everything went wrong
- feel ashamed that I directed my anger toward
- had incorrect information
- had already accepted another's offer
- let my personal problems get in the way
- problems seemed to multiply
- regret having let this situation continue
- studied the situation further and discovered that
- thought of it as a prank instead of
- was not considerate
- was upset that
- was frustrated because
5. End with a positive statement.
- Friends like you are few and far between.
- Please accept the flowers with this note as a token of my affection.
- You are a true friend indeed.
- I assure you that this incident will not happen again.
- I am glad for a friend as understanding as you. I am looking forward to our luncheon on Friday.
- I am glad to have you as a co-worker and look forward to getting back to work tomorrow.
- To make it up to you, let's reschedule for Wednesday. This time, please let me provide lunch.
- for my part, I will do my best to
- friends like you are few and far between
- glad for a friend as understanding as you
- glad to have you as a co-worker
- have been friends long before this
- having a small get-together
- look forward to sharing a pleasant evening with
- make sure that we have this resolved
- meeting the challenge with enthusiasm
- nothing similar will occur again
- please accept the flowers with this note as a token of
- please let me provide lunch
- promise to pay special attention to
- recommitted myself to
- rest assured that
- sincere thanks for your patience
- thank you for your kindness and fairness
- thank you for understanding
- thank your for your efforts
- to make it up to you, let's reschedule for
- true friend indeed
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