(Updated from 06/18/2021)
Having contributed to prior Upjourney articles on apologies and letting go, I was recently asked how to write an apology letter to a friend. This is my response.
Although I focus on workplace conflicts, this often includes conflicts among friends. Of course, I have also had my share of conflicts with friends and other loved ones throughout my life. I am not a fan of apology letters to “friends”, assuming we share the same definition of a friend and the apologizer wants to repair, transform, and continue the friendship. If so, a call will lay a much better foundation on which to build again. It will take courage, and it will probably be uncomfortable, but that might also help the recipient recognize true remorse, even if the words aren’t perfect. A letter doesn’t give them the opportunity to hear the discomfort and pain, nor does it give them an opportunity to respond authentically in the moment.
Nevertheless, there are situations in which a letter is the most appropriate way to open communication after a misstep by a friend. Perhaps many years have passed, the friend is refusing to accept calls, etc. In those cases:
- Acknowledge the less-than-ideal form of the apology. Open with something such as, “Forgive me for choosing to do this in writing. I am still open to talking this through, whenever you are ready, and I understand that you might need some time.”
- Apologize for the specific error. “I am sorry for _______________.” Stop. Do not try to explain. Take responsibility for your error(s), and keep everything focused on that. Otherwise, you seem disingenuous. If you can’t do this without bringing in all the reasons for your behavior, wait. This probably isn’t the time to attempt reconciliation. You might even benefit from coaching.
- Share how you will make amends. If you don’t know how to make amends, ask the friend what you can do and remind that you welcome a call to discuss this.
- Do what you say you will do. The behavior after the apology is probably more important than the apology itself. Once trust has been broken, only consistent behavior modification is likely to rebuild it.
- Keep the communication going. Don’t expect a quick fix. If this is a friendship you truly want, you will need to keep cultivating it.
Click here to read the complete article, which includes helpful tips from others, too.