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I went to lunch with a dear friend a couple of years ago. She seemed down and out, and I could see she had something on her mind. After some gentle coaxing, she finally started to talk about the bad week she had experienced.
I messed up royally, though. Instead of listening to my friend, I talked about my experiences. I completely dismissed her feelings (and this bad habit has a name: emotional invalidation) and continued chatting about things I thought were important.
When I realized my mistake, my friend had already called for the check and was leaving. I was so engrossed in telling my own story that I hadn't even noticed the tears in her eyes. She left without so much as a glance back at the table.
Have you ever let a friend down before, and they won't take your calls? Maybe it's time you tried a new approach to make amends.
How about following these 9 steps to write an apology letter to your friend (with an example)? It worked for me, and I found it quite therapeutic as I hand-wrote my apology letter.
But before you start apologizing, let's examine why writing an apology letter to friend is important.
Why It’s Important to Write an Apology Letter to Your Friend
The most obvious reason is that you want to save your friendship. If you've unintentionally hurt your friend and you value your friendship, you must make amends. The thing is, approaching your friend face to face while the wounds are still raw may not be the best idea.
Tempers may be high, and your prepared apology might become a full-blown confrontation or argument. Anger is a secondary emotion that usually covers up feelings of disappointment and sadness.
So that's why writing an apology letter to your friend is important. You'll be able to convey your message without any distractions or awkwardness.
You'll be able to express your regret and how much you value them as a friend by using well-thought-out words. Handwriting an apology letter to your friend shows they are worth your time.
A Step-by-Step Process on How to Write an Apology Letter to Your Friend
If your emotions are all over the place from the stress of your fallout, and you find it difficult to put pen to paper, this step-by-step process will help you write a heartfelt apology letter to your friend.
1. Take a Moment to Reflect on the Situation
The moment you realize that you have hurt your friend (maybe unintentionally) can be a hard pill to swallow. Your immediate reaction is to race over and apologize, but this isn't always the best (or most effective) approach.
Tempers are likely to be high, and you need to take a moment and think about the situation and where it is that you slipped up.
Think about it: Does sorry count if you don't fully understand why you are apologizing? Exactly. That apology would be very insincere and just said for the sake of peace. Apologizing too soon also shows you've learned nothing from the experience.
You also want to give your friend some space to cool down while you work through the situation. However, don't spend too much time with your thoughts, as you need to apologize sooner rather than later.
Try this: Ask yourself questions like:
These questions will help you focus on why you behaved the way you did (and hopefully you’ll be mindful to not behave like this again). This will also provide insight into why your friend is upset.
2. Decide on a Medium to Write Your Letter
Next up is how you intend to deliver your apology. How you write your apology letter to a friend significantly influences the response you'll receive. Emails and texts are less personal, but they are the most secure and efficient way to get a letter delivered (unless you have network issues.)
If your apology is short and sweet, sending it via text is a great idea. Just remember to be mindful of the character limit. The nice thing about a text message is you could also include images (to make them smile) or voice notes for extra impact.
Handwritten letters are so much more personal, and writing a letter shows your friend that you care for them.
Try this: Type an apology letter using the Notes feature on your cell phone. Once you've decided which medium to use, you can simply copy and paste the note onto your email or messenger app.
You can also convert handwritten letters to PDF documents using the scanner feature on your phone. I like to attach PDF documents to my text messages as this ensures that your letter gets to your friend (plus, you can see if they've read it.)
3. Start off by Apologizing
This is where things can get tricky. Try not to waffle through your apology. This gives the impression that you aren't keen on taking responsibility (but rather making excuses) for your actions (and the consequences.)
If you've done something to hurt or upset your friend, it's best to get straight to the point and nip this apology in the bud. Remember that your friend can't see your facial expression or remorse when you write an apology letter.
You, therefore, need to relay this in your letter or text message. A sincere apology should express regret, a learning opportunity, and a solution (or assurance that the situation or misunderstanding won't happen again).
Don't be sarcastic or over-dramatic with your apology. There is a fine line between apologizing and being condescending. By writing this apology, you want to restore the trust and friendship that you hold dear. You don't want to worsen the situation and drive your friend further away.
4. Acknowledge Your Error in Judgment
Above all, avoid writing a heartfelt apology and ending the paragraph with a huge “but.” This automatically throws your apology right out the window, removes fault from yourself, and places the blame on your friend.
“I am so sorry, but…blah blah blah.” This is all your friend will see. Trust me; this will lead to further damage to your friendship and unnecessary conflict. Obviously, you want to justify yourself, but this is not the time (yet).
Take responsibility for your actions and acknowledge your error in judgment. We are all human, and we all experience situations differently. Remember that what might not be a big deal to you is a big deal to them, and you need to be sensitive about it.
Avoid pointing fingers at your friend and suggesting their behavior triggered your behavior. Avoid bringing up past arguments or situations. This is not going to help your case.
By acknowledging your mistake (and stating what you did wrong), you are admitting that you were wrong, and you accept the consequences of your actions (but you also hope that you can both work through this.)
5. Show That Their Feelings Matter to You
Now that you've apologized and acknowledged that you were wrong, you must show your friend that their feelings matter to you. In other words, you must validate their feelings and show them how much you appreciate their friendship.
Before we go any further, I am not saying that you must agree with them 100% (as this would be two-faced behavior.) There are ways to validate a person's feelings without agreeing with them, but you still acknowledge that their feelings matter to you.
By validating their feelings, you're reassuring them that they are heard and understood. Try not to tell them how they should react, by writing something like “You know you get upset over silly things. Get over it.”
This doesn't validate their feelings at all. In fact, it's showing that they haven't been heard (or understood), and they should be feeling a different way to how they are feeling at that moment. How do YOU feel when someone invalidates your emotions, thoughts, and experiences? Exactly. It isn’t nice.
Here are some examples of ways to validate your friends' emotions and feelings in a letter:
6. Ease the Tension
Depending on the type of friendship you share with your friend, it can sometimes help to add some lightheartedness to the situation. This doesn't mean you should throw jokes around like a clown, as that shows you don't take the situation seriously.
Perhaps you could share an inside joke. For example, you could dedicate a short paragraph to mention how you intend to make all the smoothies for leg day at the gym to make up for your mistake, or you promise to make the next round of sushi with actual fish, not fruit roll-ups.
By using some lightheartedness to ease the tension, you also show your friend that the little things matter to you, and you want them to smile. It's essential to gauge the severity of the fallout and the sensitivity levels before you add this paragraph.
You don't want to ruin your apology over an inappropriate joke. So, if in doubt, cut the joke.
7. Offer a Brief Explanation
The moment you have been waiting for has finally arrived. It's your turn to explain why you behaved the way that you did. Whoa, hold your horses. Be gentle and brief with this section, and don't go into too much detail.
This isn't about validating your feelings. You are the one apologizing, so do not make the mistake of justifying your actions, as this will start another disagreement. Making this about you will be a big mistake.
If you whip out all the reasons for your actions and how you were also hurt, then you're crumpling up your apology and deflecting the blame back onto your friend. Reiterate that you are sorry for this incident and fully understand why your friend is upset.
Not making this about you will make your apology more sincere and well-received.
8. Ask for Forgiveness
So, you've had time to focus on what you did wrong, briefly explain why you made a mistake, and apologize. All that's left to do now is ask for forgiveness, which isn't always as easy as it seems.
The fear of rejection can be overwhelming. Take a deep breath and let your words flow. Ask your friend for forgiveness (this is the whole point of writing an apology letter to friend) and let them know that this incident has affected you and you are prepared to do anything to make things better.
You can make this section short and sweet, as you have explained everything in the body of the letter.
Try this: Let them know that you understand they may still be angry or hurting and may need time to process your letter.
Also, mention that you hope they can forgive you and that you'll hear from them soon.
9. Example of an Apology Letter to Your Friend
I hope you are okay.
This is the third time I have written this letter, and I have thought about what a terrible friend I was to you last week. I am so sorry for not being there for you when you needed me. I am disappointed in myself for getting wrapped up in my life and hijacking your conversation.
I realize now that I have been doing this regularly, and I fully understand why you're upset with me. I am ashamed to say that while we spoke, I was already thinking about my own story. I think I wanted to tell you so badly that I took your pause as an opportunity to interrupt you with a story that had no significance (or sensitivity) to your situation.
I appreciate your friendship, and I will do anything to rectify the situation. I am even willing to listen to the audiobook version of Persuasion by Jane Austen to make it up to you.
I allowed my excitement and eagerness for gossip to overshadow your news, and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. From now on, I am making it my mission to practice mindful listening and to stop interrupting you when you're talking.
Once again, I am so sorry to have upset you, and I hope to hear back from you soon. I am just a phone call or a visit away if you want to talk.
Final Thoughts on an Apology Letter to Your Friend
No friendship (or relationship) is perfect, and there are bound to be hiccups where you don't see eye to eye. The important thing is that you recognize these moments, and you step up and own your mistake.
I know it's difficult to admit when you're wrong, and you may be nervous about facing your friends' anger. But your friend will appreciate the time you took to write them an apology letter, and you'll also learn something from this.
A heartfelt apology will strengthen your friendship and bond. If you enjoyed this article and are on the receiving end of an apology, why not check out my guide on how to write a forgiveness letter?
If you need more apology letter examples, check out our guide on the 6 steps to write an apology letter to your girlfriend.