I’m sorry letters

My coworker Carolyn recently made the mistake of spilling the beans about a secret her sister, Lindsey, had shared with her. Understandably, Lindsey was quite upset—and Carolyn felt terrible.

I'm sorry letters

Since Carolyn didn’t have much experience writing I’m sorry letters, I agreed to help her out. Let’s look at the letter and see why it’s a good example of how you should write your own I’m sorry letters.

Dear Lindsey,

I feel terrible about what I’ve done. I should have respected your decision to wait until you had finalized your plans before telling Mom you’re moving to California. You told me your secret because you trusted me, so it makes me feel awful to know that I betrayed that trust.

I know now that it was a bad idea, but at the time I thought I was doing you a favor by breaking the news to Mom myself. I knew she would be sad to hear you were moving so far away, but I thought I could convince her that she should be supportive. I’m sorry I made such an unwise decision. (But you already knew I had poor judgment, didn’t you? You’ve seen all of my bad hairstyles and boyfriends over the years!)

I am so lucky you’re my sister. You’ve always been there for me when I needed you, day or night. I’ll miss you when you move to California, but I know that you’re going to love your new job!

I hope that in time, I can earn back your trust. I promise I will never again reveal a secret you tell me in private.


I’m sorry letters should demonstrate your understanding
It’s not always enough for I’m sorry letters to say, “I made a mistake.” It’s also important for your I’m sorry letters to demonstrate that you understand why your loved one is upset. Lindsey was hurt because Carolyn betrayed her trust—so in the first paragraph of the letter, Carolyn addresses this issue head-on.

I’m sorry letters can explain what happened
In Carolyn’s case, she honestly thought she was helping her sister by breaking the difficult news to their Mom. While she admits that her decision was a bad one, this information might help her sister understand that Carolyn had good intentions. But be careful—your loved ones might think you’re making excuses if your I’m sorry letters focus too heavily on explaining the circumstances surrounding your mistake.

I’m sorry letters can use humor
If you can make your reader laugh, you’re already halfway towards being forgiven! If your mistake was a relatively small one that you think is likely to be forgiven, it’s appropriate to use humor in your I’m sorry letters, like Carolyn did at the end of the second paragraph.

I’m sorry letters should flatter
There’s no need to be insincere or over-the-top; just let your significant other, friend or family member know what you love most about them! Carolyn’s letter does this in the third paragraph. In just a few simple sentences, she lets her sister know why she values their relationship and why she is upset about damaging it.

I’m sorry letters should offer a solution
Whether you made your loved one feel betrayed, belittled or unappreciated, it’s very important for your I’m sorry letters  to explain the steps you’ll take to avoid making them feel that way in the future. In the final paragraph of the letter above, Carolyn reassures her sister that she will never again reveal her private information. Of course, the most important part is to follow through on these promises—your I’m sorry letters will lose their impact very quickly if you’re constantly apologizing for the same mistake!

Find out more about I’m Sorry Notes and read about I’m Sorry Poems for Boyfriends.

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