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How to say "sorry" convincingly.

Whether it's in your personal or professional life, you are going to need to say sorry for something at some point. We know from our own native languages that doing this isn't as easy as simply saying the word "sorry" - we need to convey sincerity and empathy for the person we are apologising to through our choice of words and our tone of voice.

How does the sentence below sound? does it seem sincere?

...absolutely not, it sounds like the person couldn't care less...

A possible suggestion would; "we've run into a couple of difficulties with the project which mean that it isn't going to be finished on time, I'm really sorry about this, but please know that we are working to get it completed as soon as possible, we'll keep you updated with a new estimated deadline".

Now, I obviously wrote a lot more than our initial sentence, but I think this is a good way of showing the following points;


In business, as in many personal situations, the apology is meaningless without something proactive with it - a solution to the problem, a willingness to do better next time etc etc... How about using some of these expressions the next time that you need to apologise for something...

Apologising for something you have done/ not done:

  • "I'm sorry that I've taken so long respond to your send you the call you back..."

  • "I'm sorry to have to do this, but... I need to cancel the appointment tomorrow...we need to cancel the contract...."

  • "Sorry this has taken so long to be completed, but... we've been really busy recently... I needed to focus on another piece of work...there was an emergency..."

  • "I'm really sorry about the short notice but...the meeting at 11am has been cancelled.... we are not going to be able to attend the meeting..."

  • "That was entirely my fault,..."

  • "I owe you an apology for... "

On behalf or an organisation or company:

  • "We sincerely apologise for...the breach of data protection laws....sending you the wrong item...the damage to your car in our car park... we are working to understand how this could have happened"

  • "Please accept our (sincerest) apologies for...the delay in the delivery times....the inconvenience that you have had with the service... we are working to make sure that this doesn't happen again..."

  • "On behalf of company I'd like to apologise for... the experience you had in store....the way you were spoken to on the phone recently...the damaged item... this is not reflective of the high standards we strive to maintain."

Language to avoid: I've had many people using expressions like "my bad" which is far too informal, or "don't be mad at me but..." which feels too insincere or just 'sorry about that' which feels non-committal or sentences like "I hope you can forgive me..." which over exaggerates the apology too much... Basically, when in doubt, just use a variation of "I'm sorry..." or any of the other sentences above.


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