When a Written Apology Is Best
A written apology (even if it's just a few words penned on a note card) is considered more formal than a verbal one, and as a result should be used when the offense is serious. When you do something minor (yet still hurtful), you should apologize in person. A written apology is best when:
- You have betrayed your friend's confidence. Whether you blabbed about their personal life or told a friend's secret, you should say you're sorry and follow it up with a written note.
- You have repeated a major offense that your friend forgave you for in the past. A written note in this case lets your friend know you are working hard not to do it again.
- You don't see your friend for awhile after the incident. Perhaps you live far away from each other, or are just too busy to get together. If you haven't seen your friend since your blow up, send a handwritten note.
- A major betrayal that your friend has not forgiven you for. If what you did wrong was really big, you should apologize in person and follow up with a heartfelt letter.
Components of a Written Apology
The length and type of apology you write will vary depending on the size of the offense and what type of relationship you have with your friend. In general, a few words written by hand in a note card will usually suffice. If you and your friend have not spoken for a long time after your argument, you may need to write a few pages in a letter.
Some people try and apologize over email, but it is better to write your apology by hand. Doing so makes it stand out from other means of communication, and gives the impression of added effort on your part (which in turn will show your friend you are serious about apologizing).
Items That Should Be in an Apology Note
Do not explain yourself in your note. Since your friend isn't there to have a conversation with you, don't write out "your side" of things. Your point in penning an apology is to take responsibility for your error. If you feel that your friend doesn't understand your side, you can add a line that you'd like to talk with them more in person about what happened.
Acknowledge your error. The worst apologizes have the words "I'm sorry if" and "I'm sorry you feel I hurt you." Avoid these and get right to the point by writing something like, "I'm sorry I told Shirley your family secret. You trusted me with this and it was wrong of me."
Reiterate your desire to remain friends. A handwritten note is the perfect way to nurture your friendship after a gaffe. End your apology note with a few lines letting your pal know you value their friendship.