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Apologizing Is Good for You!

In this month's Better Writing at Work newsletter, I wrote about the value of apologizing. In the lead article, "The Power of Saying 'I'm Sorry,'" I noted the power of apologizing to free us to move on and to free the other person of bad feelings. I also offered do's and don'ts for saying "I'm sorry" in writing, along with two examples of effective written apologies.

The newsletter drew an immediate response from Dr. Dennis Dennis, Consulting Organizational Psychologist, who lives in Redmond, Washington, USA. Dennis wrote:

This one [newsletter] on saying "I'm Sorry" was especially interesting. It fits perfectly with what I have taught for many years. The only thing I usually add is that an apology benefits the person giving it as much (or often more) than the person receiving it. This thought sometimes helps people get past the difficulty of apologizing sincerely when they really believe the other party contributed in some way to the problem.

The advantage of this approach is that it allows the "apologizer" to maintain their boundary and a sense of personal power because they are in control of the decision to apologize. It is entirely up to the other person whether they will accept the apology. One can sincerely apologize and move on even if the apology is not accepted. You imply this in your article, but I wanted to underscore this point.

I appreciate Dennis's emphasis on that key point: saying "I'm sorry" benefits the person who apologizes as much or more than the other person–whether the apology is accepted or not. I also appreciate his giving me permission to quote him here.

You can read an earlier post I wrote on how to apologize in writing. Then go ahead and write that apology. Move beyond any guilt or discomfort, and be happy.

Warm wishes,


Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

One comment on “Apologizing Is Good for You!”

  • Lynn,

    There are so many things in life that we as humans share in both our personal and business lives, yet nobody teaches us how to do them effectively and what the benefits would be–apologizing is one of them.

    Good for you for bringing up these topics.

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