How to Accept an Apology in Writing

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How To Accept An Apology With Grace But Set Boundaries At The Same Time

Apologies usually come with heavy emotions and hurt feelings. It can be difficult to put these aside and be graceful when someone approaches you to apologize.

While you should always try your best to accept an apology with grace (if you feel you are ready to), you should also use it as an opportunity to set boundaries going forward, or chances are that the same thing might end up happening again.

You can accept an apology with grace and set boundaries at the same time, and here is how.

Listen

Give the person the respect of you listening to them apologizing. Even if you aren’t completely ready to hear them say the words “I am sorry”, appreciate that it is probably difficult for them to apologize, and let them speak their peace.

Avoid interrupting or correcting them as they apologize. If there is anything you want to say, save it for when they are finished speaking. You will have time to say your bit once they are done and giving them the respect of listening to what they say shows maturity.

Decide How To Move Forward

You will need to decide whether or not you will be accepting their apology. You don’t even have to make this decision there.

Take your time to decide whether or not you forgive them. You are never obligated to accept an apology, so don’t feel pressured to doing so.

Make sure that the person acknowledges the pain they may have caused you, and that they were not trying to make excuses for their behavior in their apology.

You could always point out how you feel to them, as they might not fully understand how their actions impacted you.

Don’t Skip Back To Normal

Not everything is fixed by an apology. They have to put in the work necessary to make it up to you, or to avoid having the same situations happen again.

Do not be tempted to go back to life the way it was before they hurt you, because things don’t change if things don’t change!

Give yourself the grace and respect to not fall back into bad habits, and let them know that you will not be accepting previous behavior moving on.

They need to know that you are serious about protecting yourself from being hurt again, and you need to know that as well.

Accept Or Do Not Accept

Once you feel ready, you should let them know how you feel. Accepting their apology, if it is right in the situation, will help both of you move forward, but just make sure you are ready to do so.

Let them know that you accept their apology, and whether or not you can offer some forgiveness yet. You are not obliged to do anything, and don’t let them pressure you to do so.

Set Your Boundaries

When you let them know that you have accepted their apology, you should also let them know what your boundaries are going to be moving forward.

Take your time to work out what you want your relationship to be like in the future, and what boundaries and actions can be put in place to ensure this.

They can either accept these boundaries or not, that is completely up to them, as long as you hold yourself in high enough regard to know that you are worth more and that you will be moving on if they choose not to keep within the boundaries you set.

Keep a check on how they act, and remind them of these boundaries if you notice any negative behavior happening. You owe it to yourself to only keep positive influences in your life!

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Letters for eCommerce projects

 An old customer is worth ten new ones — they dese
An old customer is worth ten new ones — they deserve proper treatment

How to apologize professionally in an email when your clients face delays and poor quality of items? First, do not make them wait even longer — they wasted enough time already. Second, send instant feedback with ready solutions and options.

Don’t forget that connection breeds cooperation. When buyers see your genuine concerns, they are more likely to buy anything from you again.

1. Delivery delays

Even if delivery troubles happen on the carrier’s side, you bear the responsibility for the customer’s satisfaction, so deal with anger in a dignified way. Your number one priority is to specify delivery dates.

If deadlines are heavily violated, you should provide some compensation: that significantly increases your chance of retaining a client.

Apology letter for delivery delays
Apology letter for delivery delays

Pro tips

  • You don’t have to go into details about the reasons for the delay ─ focus on the solution.
  • Not sure about shipping dates? Promise to notify the customer once the parcel is delivered.
  • Offer compensation and further help.

2. Damaged or defective product/service

Take these complaints seriously, as one negative review with the photos of your distorted products may avert hundreds of customers. News spreads like fire on the Internet, so don’t make things worse by neglecting proper customer support.

 Apology letter for defective service
Apology letter for defective service

Pro tips

  • Specify the product with its name, as it shows you’re well aware of the situation.
  • Never blame postal companies because safe packaging is the seller’s responsibility!
  • Ship the replacement product beforehand (if in stock) or come up with decent compensation.
  • Always thank customers for their feedback and highlight that it helps you grow and improve service quality.

3. Product recall

Consumers won’t even notice that your canned cat food contains too much zinc, but letters explaining product recalls show that you really care. Sincerity in eCommerce is so rare these days, so try to serve your customers as you’d do your loved family members.

 Apology letter for product recall
Apology letter for product recall

Pro tips

  • Emphasize that you take care of customers’ safety.
  • Be particular about the products and batches affected. A customer should not have an impression like your entire lineup of products is defective.
  • Explain how you solve the problem.
  • Offer replacement or refund for defective products.

4. Delayed refund

People hate waiting. Making them wait twice is one of the worst things a company can do. Your ‘sorry about inconvenience’ won’t be enough, so make sure to sweeten the deal with a bonus for patience.

 Apology letter for delayed refund
Apology letter for delayed refund

Pro tips

  • Give explanations for the delay.
  • Compensation is a must if you want to retain the customer.
  • Thank the client for patience and remind them that you value their loyalty.

Apology letter examples

Here are a couple of examples of successful apology letters:

Example 1: Direct apology

Dear Isaac,

I apologize for excluding you from the company holiday party I hosted last week. I neglected to update my personal directory and accidentally left you and several other recent hires off of the invite list. I assure you that the exclusion was not intentional and that I feel terrible about my mistake.

It is very important to me to be a team player in our workplace, and I typically make a point of reaching out to new employees and making them feel welcome. I am disappointed in my oversight and I regret any pain or stress I caused you. I have already added your contact information to my personal address book and I assure you that something like this will never happen again.

I sincerely ask for your forgiveness. I hope my mistake has not damaged our relationship and I look forward to getting you to know better at the next company gathering.

All the best, Rachel

Example 2: Third-party apology

Mr. Anders,

Please accept my sincere apology on behalf of Edgar Wright Motors. We are so sorry to hear that your experience with the auto parts that we delivered did not meet the specifications you sent us. Our design and manufacturing teams should have studied your request more thoroughly and asked for your approval before shipping the final product. We understand this mistake and the delay that it has caused has been frustrating for you.

We take full responsibility for our fault in this situation and would like to replace the incorrect parts and offer you a company gift card for $100, usable in any of our 15 locations and through our online store. We hope you will accept this gesture of apology. Our development team will contact you soon to discuss your order and make certain that the replacement parts meet your needs.

We want to assure you that this type of issue will never present itself again. We have taken initiative with our manufacturing team to make sure special orders are filled more carefully in the future. We value you and your business and we hope to continue our professional relationship moving forward.

If you have any questions or want to discuss this matter further, please contact me directly or any member of our Customer Service team.

Yours Sincerely, Jack Dylan Regional Manager Edgar Wright Motors

Example 3: Group apology

Dear Neighbors,

*We owe you all an apology. Last weekend, we invited a musician from out of state to perform at our restaurant. He said he had quarantined beforehand in accordance with our state guidelines, but unfortunately we became aware afterward that this was not entirely truthful.

This pandemic has made the past year a difficult one for everyone, especially restaurants and music venues like ours, but that doesn’t mean we are exempt from the rules our local government has set in place to keep our community safe.

When we planned that event, we simply wanted to bring some joy back into our community. Looking back, we can see how we could have put our small town in jeopardy. We are committed to doing better. We will be closing our doors and suspending takeout service until we can confirm that all staff members have tested negative for COVID-19. Stay tuned for an announcement about when we are ready to reopen.

We know now more than ever how lucky we are to call this community our home. Your continued support through this stressful year means the world to us.

All the best,Ariel FisherMusicBarn

Make Amends

If there’s anything you can do to amend the situation, do it. It’s important to know how to apologize with sincerity, and part of that sincerity is a willingness to act.

What to Say When You Make Amends

If you broke something: "How can I replace it?"If you said something hurtful: "I know my words hurt you. I should have never spoken that way to someone I love and respect. I'll do my best to think before I speak in the future."If you broke trust: "Is there anything I can do right now to help build your trust?"

Whatever you can do to make things better, do it. If you’re not sure what would help, ask the other person.

Apology email format

As you can see, there are hundreds of ways to say I'm sorry, but thankfully there's a single accepted format.

Researchers studying effective apology emails have discovered that there is a standard structure, including:

  • Greeting
  • Gratitude
  • Apology
  • Explanation
  • Conclusion
  • Sign-off/Signature

We can translate the findings of researchers into a professional email format. As we've outlined in previous blogs, every professional apology letter has five parts:

  • Subject line
  • Email greeting
  • Email opening line and body 
  • Email ending 
  • Email signature 

Here's a visual representation of how the apology email format works in practice.

Subject line: (Subject line) Dear (Recipient’s first name) (Recipient’s last name), (Email opening line) (Email body) (Email closing sentence) (Email Sign-off) (Your first name) (Your last name) (Email Signature)

Let's look at each of these parts in greater detail.

Apology email subject line

Every subject line is short and to the point, so we recommend sticking an apology up front, not hiding it in the body of your message. 

Some examples of acceptable apology email subject lines include:

  • Please accept my apologies
  • Confused about my last message?
  • We made a mistake
  • An apology from <business name>
  • An apology from <your name>
  • I am sincerely sorry

These are samples that you can apply to your apology messages. We'd suggest you look for ways to personalize them where possible, including details that are relevant to your clients, customers, managers, or teams.                    

Apology greetings  

An apology is an official email, so follow the accepted rules and formal greetings when deciding how to start an apology email. The regulations on starting an apology letter are pretty simple; use 'Dear <first name, surname> if you know the person.

If you're apologizing for something, you'll likely know their full name. If you don't, you can use a suitable collective term, such as "Dear Customer" or "Dear Team".

Learn more about professional email greetings in our article.                      

Three parts of an apology

A heartfelt apology has three parts, says Jeffrey Bernstein, Ph.D., in Psychology Today. Every great apology includes:

  1. Acknowledgment – Admit that you have done wrong and say so clearly.
  2. Empathy – It is critical to understand how your actions and your mistakes have made the other person feel––and what this may mean to them.
  3. Restitution – You've said sorry and acknowledged the emotional impact is great; now say what you're going to do to make things better. Restitution is about restoring respect and building a better, stronger relationship in the future.

We use this structure in our samples, so read on to see how it can work in practice.

How to acknowledge a mistake in an email

Using the three-part model of an apology developed by Bernstein, we can tackle the most challenging part: how to acknowledge a mistake in an email.

Here are some examples of how you can acknowledge your mistakes, be clear that you understand the issue, and accept the mistake is yours:                       

  • It is my mistake that…
  • I made a mistake
  • I made an error
  • I made a terrible mistake
  • I've made a huge mistake
  • I admit that I made a mistake when…
  • I accidentally left your name off my last email
  • A correction to my previous email…
  • This won't happen again       

How to close an apology email

The principles of how to close an apology email are about setting the scene for a future relationship that's better and stronger. It obviously depends on the mistake, the relationship, and what needs to be repaired. Still, some positive ways you can close an apology email include:

  • I look forward to working with you in the future
  • I trust we can put this situation behind us
  • We will never make the same mistake again and hope you will continue to work with us
  • We are excited to continue our partnership
  • I hope this apology closes the matter and enables us to move forward positively

In case you want to learn more email closing phrases check out our article on the topic.

The Importance of apologize for email in Business Communication

Sure thing, apologizing bring not too much fun. However, we cannot underestimate the importance of such an approach in the setting of business relationships with customers. Knowing how to say sorry in email properly will help you in protecting your reputation despite the fact you make mistakes sometimes. After all, this is a common courtesy that every well-behaved person should follow.

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