How To Write a Letter of Apology
Here’s letter-writing advice from Letitia Baldrige, the business etiquette legend, about writing letters of apology.
“Apologies rarely come easy. It’s always uncomfortable facing up to the fact that you’ve inconvenienced, embarrassed, or offended someone. The difficulty is that not acknowledging your failing or error in a given situation is only likely to result in ill feelings hardening against you.”
The following sample letter of apology is adapted from one that Letitia Baldrige wrote. The apology here is for an unintentional racial slur delivered in front of a person of the race mentioned.
“This is probably the hardest letter I have ever had to write because I’ve never been so wrong or acted in such a shameful way.
My remark this morning was reprehensible, uncalled for, and totally unforgivable, but I’m asking you to forgive me anyway. I hurt you, and I hope you will show me all of the mercy I seem to lack myself.
I promise never again to think, much less express a remark like that. I hope you will forget my behavior.”
Here are two specific recommendations when writing a letter of apology.
One. If there is any possibility of a lawsuit, whatyousay.com urges you to consult with your attorney before writing the letter. You do not want your words to be turned against you, even though they were prompted by the goodness of your heart.
Two. Do not say: “If I have offended you, I apologize.” Any perceptive person will know that this statement attempts to shift the blame from yourself to them without taking responsibility for your own actions. This statement says in effect, “It was your perception of what happened that’s the problem, not anything that I did.”
You can say something like the following: “I am truly sorry for what happened. I hope you know me well enough to know that I would never, ever knowingly do anything to offend or hurt you.”
–Adapted and excerpted from “Letitia Baldrige’s Complete Guide To Executive Manners.”
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