How do you politely respond to an apology

Sorry: 6 tips + 20 examples and formulations

Embarrassing happens. If you make a mistake, you should apologize for it. Not only does an apology demonstrate human greatness, it is also a balm for relationships. Denial - even if most try - would be wrong. After all, mistakes are like vaccinations: They strengthen our cognitive immune system and save us from making the same mistake a second time. So please excuse me perfectly, but be objective and confident. The following examples, formulations and templates for typical everyday situations show how this works ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Sincere apology: 6 basic rules

How can one properly apologize or “apologize” perfectly? In fact, a good and honest apology doesn't take much. Except overcoming. In order for your apology to be received and accepted, there are 6 basic rules that you should follow:

  1. Immediately apologize
    Did you make a mistake, hurt or upset someone? Then an apology is appropriate immediately and not just two weeks apart. The longer you wait, the weaker the effect and the loss of credibility.
  2. Apologize personally
    Serious and sincere apologies are not for phone calls or emails. If you want you to be taken seriously, you need to apologize personally and look the other person in the eye while asking for forgiveness. That makes it harder, but it ensures that your gesture is understood and accepted.
  3. Don't talk your way out
    An apology is not the time to come up with excuses as to why it wasn't wrongdoing or your fault. You did wrong or were wrong. Point. Out. Take full responsibility for it.
  4. Say what you apologize for
    A general “excuse me…” is usually followed by the question: “What exactly are you apologizing for?” Naming your own mistake shows that you know what you did wrong and that you mean business when you ask for forgiveness.
  5. Offer to make amends
    Along with your apology, think about how you can make up for the mistake. If you spilled wine on the pants of the person sitting next to you, you will of course pay for the cleaning. If the colleague has more work due to the mistake, support them. Even small gestures can make a big difference.
  6. Promise to get well soon
    The grand finale of an apology is the prospect of a better future. Assure them that it will not happen again and that from now on you will pay attention to your behavior.

Short apology: formulations & examples

Excuses shouldn't be thrown around like candy in carnival. If used carelessly, succinctly, and inflationarily, excuses lose their power. It always starts with a thorough analysis: What went wrong? How could that happen? Who is really to blame for this? Have you been sloppy or inattentive? Did you react incorrectly or too quickly? Only then do you know for what and from whom you have to apologize in any form or take responsibility - without excuses or justifications.

Prove your backbone and don't wrap the bad news in cotton or the solution in gift wrap. In this country nobody wants to see tearful self-mortification, as is common in Japan. But repentance and real knowledge do. Studies in psychology and sociology have shown that the main thing you should do is apologize for the mistake you are accused of, even if objectively it was a different one. In the following you will find suitable building blocks and formulations for a perfect letter of apology.

10 examples of a quick apology

  • "I would like to sincerely apologize to you from the bottom of my heart."
  • "We shouldn't have made this mistake, we would like to apologize for it."
  • "The mistake is clearly on our side, we apologize."
  • "I accidentally made a mishap for which I apologize."
  • "Please believe me / us that this error will not happen again."
  • "I would like to apologize in all forms for my behavior in yesterday's meeting."
  • "We sincerely regret this mistake, please give us the opportunity to make it up to you."
  • “I'm sorry that I screwed up this job. I'll take care of the angry customer immediately. "
  • "We would like to apologize to you for the inconvenience caused by the poor delivery."
  • "Your anger is perfectly understandable, so we want to assure you that we learn from our mistakes."

Sorry templates: 5 different occasions

Sometimes words are lacking to apologize. What should I just write or say? So many sit undecided in front of a blank sheet of paper or an e-mail and do not know where to start. To help you, we have created numerous templates for apologizing in different situations. Some of these can be used immediately, in other cases they are intended as inspiration and should be individually adapted:

Sorry for absent days from school

Apologies for absent days from school are usually informal. Two or three sentences are sufficient here. Just make sure that your letter of apology includes the date and your signature next to the letterhead with your name and address.


Dear Ms. Mustermann,

Due to a cold, my son was unfortunately unable to attend classes on Tuesday, DD.MM.YYYY. I apologize for the absence of this.

With best regards
Stefan Schmitz


Dear Mr. Miller,

Since my daughter suffered from a high fever, she was unfortunately unable to attend school between dd / mm / yyyy and dd / mm / yyyy. I would like to apologize for this failure.

I wish you a good week. With best regards
Vanessa Hofstadt

Sorry for the physical education class

Sometimes a student can take other lessons but is not allowed to participate in sports. An appropriate apology for sport should be written here, briefly explaining why and for how long the student has to stop exercising.


Dear Mr. Konrad,

At the weekend my son Felix injured himself at a soccer tournament and suffered a ligament stretch. Therefore, on the recommendation of the doctor, he will unfortunately not be able to take part in physical education for the next four weeks. We have attached the certificate from the attending physician to this apology. I apologize for the failure.

With best regards
Claudia Fischer


Dear Mrs. Maier,

Unfortunately, my daughter Melanie cannot take part in physical education classes on DD.MM.YYYY for health reasons. I apologize for this. It is likely that Melanie will be able to participate in sports as usual in the next week.

Thank you for your understanding.
Sebastian Gerstens

Sorry to colleagues

At work you don't always agree, discussions are sometimes too heated and it can also be exaggerated with the competition. Then it will be professional and show true greatness if you apologize.


Dear Michael,

I want to sincerely apologize to you. My reaction was unprofessional and excessive. Your criticism was justified and with some time to think about it, I can see the opportunities for improvement that your suggestions bring. I hope you can forgive me for the emotional reaction and we can continue to make the project successful together.

Best regards
Tobias


Hello Clara,

on this way I wanted to apologize to you again. I was not aware at the moment that what I said in the meeting with the customer undermined your planning. That was in no way my intention and if there is something I can do to support you, please let me know. I would like to make up for my mistake.

regards
Matthias

Sorry to the boss

You may have to apologize not only to colleagues, but also to the boss. A silly mistake that annoys an important customer or a delay that prevents a project deadline from being met - it can happen, but you should also make an apology.


Dear Mr. Larson,

At this point I would like to apologize again for my behavior at the customer appointment on Monday. Such bad preparation has never happened to me before - and I will work very hard to ensure that it does not happen again in the future. In the meantime, I personally apologized to the customer and arranged a follow-up appointment to convince them of our product.

With best regards
Konrad Stauck


Dear Mr. Mustermann,

such a mistake should of course never have happened. For this I apologize in all fairness and take responsibility. I have already spoken to Ms. Mayer on the phone and fixed the error as quickly as possible. At least this should not have any further effects.

Best Regards
Anna Kühn

Sorry to friends

Lastly, you need to apologize to friends every now and then as well. There can be many reasons for this: a thoughtless statement that annoys the other or a lack of help if the friend needed it. An apology can help smooth things over again.


Dear Julia,

I can't put into words how sorry I am. I was completely stupid and I hope you can somehow forgive me. You are very important to me and your friendship means a lot to me. Maybe we can meet for coffee to talk about it.

best regards
Kathrin


Dear Philipp,

I am so sorry! I know I agreed to help you move and I didn't mean to let you down. My boss gave me an extra shift at short notice, which is why I didn't make it. If there is still something left to do, just let me know. Then I'll come over and bring something to eat as an excuse.

Guilty greetings
Martin

Can you even apologize?

The word “sorry” usually comes out of our lips in two situations: As an admission of a mistake or omission - for example, if we have forgotten a deadline or made a mistake in reasoning. Often because we have said the wrong thing and notice that it hit the other person (unintentionally). Or as part of a courtesy formula. This happens, for example, if you accidentally bumped into someone, ask for their indulgence, or ask for directions.

In both situations it is often argued that one cannot “apologize” to oneself. Ultimately, only the injured party can remit the guilt. That is why one can only ask for forgiveness, forgiveness or just “ask for an excuse” - but not apologize to oneself.

Whoever takes the language at its word may be right - but at the same time forgets the moral of the story: Those who acknowledge their guilt and therefore apologize can expect (with rare exceptions) to be forgiven. After all, we are all not without guilt and faults. So anyone who increases speech-rhetorically and points out that self-excuse is impossible, may overlook the fact that tomorrow you will be the person who is hoping for forgiveness.

accept apology

Of course, apologizing always takes two things: the victim and the person who wants to apologize. Being able to forgive other people for their mistakes is not only a sign of generosity, but also indispensable for an intact relationship. Depending on the situation, the following formulations are suitable:

  • "That doesn't matter."
  • "That can happen."
  • "It's okay."
  • "Half as wild."
  • "That also happened to me before."
  • "You don't have to be uncomfortable."
  • "Don't worry, already forgot."

In some situations it is difficult for the forgiving person to accept the apology - for example because the same mistake happens again or the disappointment is simply too great. What are the options then? Fidgeting someone who sincerely repents is not the best way to go. On the other hand, excuses shouldn't be used as a general purpose tool for all misconduct. A compromise solution could look like this:

I accept the apology. I really hope that doesn't happen again, otherwise I don't know how to react.

Here the injured party signals: This is the last chance. Should such an error occur again, consequences are to be expected. It is a warning shot to those who apologize.

Mea culpa: Why some are reluctant to apologize

Unfortunately, one can observe it again and again: people make an obvious mistake. But instead of admitting this, they take refuge in forward defense. Those affected go on attack, put into perspective, delegate responsibility or downgrade their faux pas as a stupid individual case. Who knows what the future will show - maybe you are right after all ...

But why do many find it so difficult to admit short-term failure? Why do they prefer to make up excuses, deny or blame others or the circumstances? There are now two well-founded explanations for this:

  • Ego versus sorry
    People hate to be confronted with their own imperfection. But they hate it even more to have to admit it publicly. There is an interesting phenomenon here: the more indifferent you are to people, the easier it is to apologize. The more important these people (or the audience's favor) are to us, the more doggedly we fight for our lost face - and only make it worse.
  • Self-esteem versus apology
    Those who deliberately do not apologize feel more powerful and sublime. This perceived power to control things in turn leads to greater self-esteem. This is the result of studies by scientists at the University of Queensland. But please don't get it wrong: The study explains why many feel better without an apology, but it does not provide any justification!

No pardon: when not to apologize

You don't have to apologize for every mishap between the coffee machine and the foosball table. In other words: not always when someone thinks that you have stepped on your feet in a figurative sense, you have to apologize immediately. Sometimes no pardon is better than a "sorry". For example in these situations ...

  • If you haven't made a mistake at all.
    Taking the blame off the shoulders - that sounds noble, but it is wrong. Save your excuses for mistakes for which you are actually responsible.
  • If it contradicts your belief.
    Never apologize for a decision you think is the right one. Especially when it is the only one that you can reconcile with your conscience. Anyone who asks you immorality should actually apologize to you - not the other way around.
  • If you have a different opinion.
    “Sorry, but I disagree on this point.” You hear and read that a lot, but it's nonsense. A discourse thrives on opposing positions. Do not apologize for your point of view, if at all for the tone in which you expressed it.
  • If that's what you want to get an alibi for yourself.
    A classic example is the presentation in the company - or in a presentation at the university: "Sorry, but I hardly had time to prepare properly." This is not an excuse, but an excuse! In addition, you devalue the work from the outset - out of false modesty or jitters. Unnecessary!

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November 27, 2020Author: Jochen Mai

Jochen Mai is the founder and editor-in-chief of the career bible. The author of several books lectures at the TH Köln and is a sought-after keynote speaker, coach and consultant.

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