How To Say I’m Sorry

By Mel Sim

Sorry seems to be the hardest word, especially at work. Saying and actually meaning it is what you should be doing.

Whether you’re late for work, missed a deadline or made a huge mistake that caused some setback to the project, it’s inevitable that you’ll say sorry a few times in your working life. What makes all the difference is how you say those three words. Do you really mean it... or does it seem as if you’re forced to say it? Being sincere about it – and not just blurting I’m sorry and then walking away – will make your colleagues and boss more likely to forgive and forget.

Here are seven don’ts when making a sincere apology.

#1 Don’t make excuses Late? Say sorry to your boss and then head straight to your desk. You don’t have to go into the details because it will sound like you’re making excuses. And no one wants to hear them.

#2 Don’t leave it for too long Saying sorry a week later after you made the mistake makes it seem like you either don’t care that you’ve done something wrong or you don’t think it was your fault in the first place anyway. The longer you leave it, the more insincere you’ll appear. Plus, your boss could be seething in anger all that time and will be extremely annoyed by the time you decide to say sorry. Not good!

#3 Don’t text or email it Nothing like an apology in person or at the very least with a phone call. Texting or emailing makes it seem you’re either too afraid to face the consequences in person or that you’re not entirely sincerely about the whole situation. Plus, the person reading your apology may interpret it wrongly – bad idea.

#4 Don’t go on and on and on.... Say sorry. Then go. That’s what a genuine apology looks like. Nobody wants to hear the same apology 10 times. It will make you look like you’re seeking reassurance and want to make yourself feel less guilty.

#5 Don’t be vague Be specific - say what you’re sorry for (“I’m sorry I forgot that task”) so that the person you’re apologising knows that you realise where you’ve gone wrong and are not apologising just for the sake of apologising.

#6 Don’t forget your body language If you’re saying sorry while crossing your arms and looking at the floor, nobody is going to believe a single word. Make eye contact, keep your body open and welcoming (arms at the sides). Don’t smile, smirk, cry or frown.

#7 Don’t make the same mistake twice! You said you’re sorry for coming to work late on Monday. And then you do the same thing on Tuesday. What does your sorry on Monday means then? That’s right – zilch.

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