From The Grammarly Blog:
There may come a time in your life (or maybe it’s already happened) when you offended someone or let them down. Depending on the situation, a simple “I’m sorry” might not be enough to make up for the mistake or hurt you caused.
Writing an apology letter for a mistake or wrongdoing might be the first step in repairing the recipient’s dignity and restoring respect and trust in the relationship.
What is an apology letter?
The purpose of an apology letter is to atone for a mistake, offense, or harm that you caused toward another party. In addition to acknowledging your responsibility in the situation, it’s an opportunity to validate the recipient’s experience and feelings. It’s also a way to begin to restore trust and communication in the relationship by affirming how you’ll work to repair the damage and avoid causing offense in the future.
Keep in mind that an apology letter is not a tool for justifying your actions or exculpating yourself. The letter is for the recipient, meant to address your actions and their feelings.
When to write an apology letter
An apology letter can be valuable in situations when you’ve caused or contributed to wrongdoing or a mistake that adversely affected another person.
For example, you might want to write a letter to a friend, family member, or partner whom you care about but have insulted or taken for granted. Apology letters can also be useful when you’ve compromised other relationships, such as those in the workplace. You might decide to write an apology for a job-related mistake or for failing to give a colleague credit.
How to write an apology letter
Writing a letter of apology starts with the apology itself, but before writing down your thoughts, make sure you feel calm and clear-headed.
Give yourself enough time to process your own emotions and the scenario so you can understand the recipient’s perspective. When you’re ready to apologize, include the elements below in your letter.
1 Apologize unconditionally
At the beginning of your apology letter, write “I’m sorry for . . .” or “I apologize for . . .” followed by what you’re specifically remorseful about. Expressing remorse upfront shows humility and awareness about how you’ve affected the other person.
2 Acknowledge the impact
Next, recognize the effect that your actions had, whether on the recipient, a group, or a larger situation. Accepting responsibility for how you impacted others demonstrates that you understand why they’re hurt, upset, or disappointed. This is a critical step because it validates their feelings, which can help them feel heard and seen.
Sometimes it might seem helpful to briefly explain what happened that led to the offense. However, be cautious about making excuses for your behavior. A recipient who’s slighted may not be interested in the reason behind why you’ve broken their trust—only that you have.
3 Atone for the wrongdoing
In this part of an apology letter, express your wish to make amends. Offer suggestions on how you plan to change your actions moving forward. Avoid statements, like “Tell me what I can do to make this right” which puts the burden of finding a way forward on the recipient.
Instead, do the mental labor by bringing your own solutions to show that you’re coming from a genuine place of learning and goodwill.
4 Offer reassurance
Reiterate your desire to rebuild from this experience together. And, assure them that you’ve learned from your mistake.
When you’re finished writing the apology letter, it should be concise and honest. Importantly, it should demonstrate that you hear and empathize with the recipient’s experience.
Remember that an apology letter doesn’t guarantee the other person’s forgiveness. It’s the first step to potentially recovering lost faith in a relationship that’s important to you.
Link to the rest, including what not to say in an apology letter, at The Grammarly Blog