There are few things worse than knowing you have hurt someone.
People react differently to feeling hurt. Some people will confront you and let you know what you’ve done to upset them.
Other people are more conflict-averse and will avoid you if you have offended them.
Whether you have said or done something to hurt a colleague, friend, family member, or partner, you might find the idea of apologizing in person hard.
It is difficult to make sure you express yourself well in the heat of an emotionally loaded moment.
Instead of worrying about how your in-person delivery will go, why not write the person you’ve hurt a letter?
Apology letters are a sincere way to make sure you express yourself fully and completely.
How to write a perfect apology letter for hurting someone’s feelings
- Address the person you are writing to as “Dear…”
- Apologize unreservedly.
- Acknowledge what you have done wrong.
- Show that you understand how serious your mistake was.
- Express that you don’t expect immediate forgiveness.
- Say that you hope the two of you can work through things in time.
- Reiterate your apology.
- Make a closing remark.
- Sign off your letter with your name.
If you follow this nine-step formula when writing an apology letter, you can rest assured that you have done everything you can.
All your bases will have been covered.
It is now up to the recipient to decide whether they can forgive you.
While all apology letters follow a similar template, there are obviously huge differences between writing a personal apology letter and, for example, writing an apology letter for missing class.
That said, whatever the apology that you need to give is, this formula will serve you well.
Here is a brief explanation of why each step is important:
Addressing someone as “Dear…” works in both formal and personal settings. It is both a polite greeting and an expression of endearment.
Apologizing unreservedly is important because it demonstrates that you are not trying to excuse or justify your behavior.
Acknowledging what you have done wrong shows that you understand why the recipient is upset with you and that you recognize that you need to change your ways.
Showing that you understand how serious your mistake was conveys that you get why the hurt person was so deeply affected by what you did. It confirms that you do not think they are overreacting.
Expressing that you don’t expect immediate forgiveness makes it clear that you understand that the recipient of your letter does not have to accept your apology.
Saying that you hope the two of you can work through things in time communicates that you still have hope for the future of your relationship and that the person you have hurt means a lot to you.
Reiterating your apology reminds the recipient what the point of your letter is and reinforces how sincerely you regret your actions.
Making a closing remark is a good way to add a personal touch to an apology letter. What this remark should be depends on the circumstances that have led you to apologize.
Signing off your letter with your name is a mark of respect.
Writing an apology letter for hurting someone you love
The closer two people are, the more power they have to hurt each other.
Why is that? Well, to get closer to someone, we have to open up to them and allow ourselves to be vulnerable with them.
With that vulnerability comes letting down our guard.
When we’re around people we love, our natural defenses aren’t activated, and we show much more of our true selves.
When someone who knows us intimately (and has access to all our insecurities) hurts us, it is far more devastating than when a random person on the street is rude to us. There are two main reasons for this.
First, the safety we feel when we trust someone is called into jeopardy.
Second, when someone who knows us criticizes or rejects us, it feels much more like a reflection of our worth than when someone who doesn’t really know us insults us.
If you’ve done or said something to hurt someone you love, you’ll probably feel terrible.
Even if you feel like you weren’t completely in the wrong, you should keep that part to yourself when you apologize.
The most important thing about writing an apology letter for hurting someone you love is that you convey sincere care for them.
Wondering what this might look like? Check out this sample apology letter that follows the nine-step formula set out above.
Sample Apology Letter for Hurting Feelings of Someone you Love #1
I can’t tell you how sorry I am for forgetting your birthday. That was inconsiderate of me and completely understand why you are hurt.
I don’t expect a response and I know that I’m not entitled to your forgiveness. That said, I hope we can work through this because I would be devastated if I lost you.
Again, I can’t tell you how much I regret my thoughtlessness.
Will you give me another chance?
I love you,
For more examples of how to say sorry to your female partner, you can check out this article on how to write an apology letter to a girlfriend.
Sample Apology Letter for Hurting Feelings of Someone you Love #2
I am so, so sorry for texting my ex last week. There is no excuse for my behavior, and I feel deeply ashamed. I know how hurtful that was to you and I hate that I disrespected you like that.
I know I have no right to ask you to forgive me, so I will give you all the space you need.
You are the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and I am hoping with my whole heart that we can work through this and eventually be as happy as we were before.
I can’t find the words to accurately express how sorry I am.
Without you, I don’t know who I am.
Writing an apology letter for hurting feelings of a family member or friend
Realizing that you have hurt a friend or family member is never nice. These bonds of platonic (and often unconditional) love are some of the most important in our lives.
However, they generally lack the intensity that characterizes romantic relationships.
In many ways, this makes dealing with personal conflict easier.
After all, if you hurt each other, you’ll probably be able to approach the situation with greater reflectiveness.
This means that when you write an apology letter, you’ll probably be able to take stock of the situation in a relatively subjective way.
Of course, an argument with a friend is different to a falling out with a family member.
After all, blood is thicker than water, right?
Then again, every disagreement is different. For example, an argument with an acquaintance is nothing like an argument with a best friend.
In general, however, the tone of an apology letter for a friend or family member should err on the side of formality.
As counterintuitive as that might sound, when someone is hurt, they’ll want to deal with the situation clinically.
They want the facts of your apology laid out in front of them, without too much emotion mixed in.
This makes it easier for them to work out how to respond to an apology from a friend.
You can both get emotional when you’ve worked out the nitty gritty and you’re making up.
Not sure how to capture this factual yet sincere tone in words? Here are two sample apology letters that might give you a better idea of how to draft your own.
Sample apology letter for hurting feelings of a friend
I am so sorry for what I said about your marriage at the dinner party on Friday night. There is no excuse for being so critical of your husband and I wish I could take back my words.
In fact, I like Colm a lot and it makes me so happy to see how happy he makes you. I understand why hearing my hurtful and tactless criticism has made you want some space from me.
I know you will probably need more time to process the whole event and I am not expecting to be forgiven right away (or even at all). That said, your friendship means the world to me, and I hope that we can talk things over when you are ready.
Again, I am so sorry. If you want to talk at any point, I am here.
Sample apology letter for hurting feelings of a family member
I can’t tell you how sorry I am for not showing up to your play. There is no excuse for letting you down like that and I understand why you are so upset with me.
I know you probably aren’t ready to forgive me. I’ll give you as much space and time as you need. When you’re ready, I’d really like to talk through things so that I can hear you out and apologize to you in person.
We’ve always been so close, and I will work to make this up to you because you are the most important person in my life.
Again, I am unreservedly sorry, and I promise I will be there for the performance next year.
You can also check out this article if you’re looking for more ways to write an apology for not attending an event.
Writing a professional apology letter
Hurting a colleague or collaborator in a professional setting puts you in a very tricky position.
The kind of apology being discussed here isn’t the kind that’s warranted when you make a professional error.
There is all sorts of advice available about how to write workplace “I’m sorry” emails for technical bad behavior, for example, on how to write an apology letter for being late for work.
If you have made a mistake in the course of your work, you’ll need to deal with it by remedying it.
There is no need for a personal apology.
What we’re talking about here is more in the vein of how to write an apology letter for being disrespectful to someone in the office.
If, while doing your work, you have accidentally or intentionally hurt a colleague’s feelings, you owe them a genuine, “I’m sorry.”
Most people know how to respond to an apology email when it comes to professional matters.
There are all sorts of guides out there on making an effective apology regarding a work problem.
But when the issue at hand is inter-personal conflict in a professional setting, things get a lot more complicated.
However, you can help out the recipient of your apology by being as clear as possible when acknowledging what you’ve done wrong.
Also, take care not to mix up work matters in your apology. Write a letter exclusively about the dynamics between you two…not about who forgot to check which box.
Here’s how you can put all this theory into practice and write an apology letter to a colleague.
Sample Apology Letter for Hurting Feelings of a Colleague #1
I am very sorry for my careless joke about the picture of your daughter on your desk. I can completely understand why you took offense. I did not intend my words to sound sarcastic, but that is no excuse for my poor delivery.
I do not expect you to forgive me so easily, but I hope we can deal with this matter outside of the office and not allow it to affect our working relationship, which has always been excellent.
Again, I am so sorry.
I’ll see you at the meeting on Monday…hopefully in the room with the good coffee machine!
Sample Apology Letter for Hurting Feelings of a Colleague #2
I am sorry for the comments I made about the training program for interns.
Given the hours of careful thought and planning that you put into designing it, I understand why you found my remarks petty and unnecessary. I completely agree with that assessment and feel embarrassed for speaking out of turn.
I don’t expect you to forgive and forget, but I hope we can work together in a civil manner.
I really like what you’ve done with the staff room re-design, by the way!
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.