How To Apologize Professionally In An Email For Late Reply

March 30, 2021

After you’ve written and sent an email that’s in-residence, you can’t stop thinking about whether or not you should have written the email differently.

We all have received a late reply that we didn’t really agree with, and we now feel awkward and regretful about it.

To avoid being in the situation where you send a last-minute email apologizing for a late reply, here are some things to think about before sending an email apologizing for a late reply.

First, and most importantly, what was your intent when you started composing the email?

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Your email should have a point, and if you’re sorry because you’ve gotten a reply late, it’s not clear if that point was the main point of the email or if it was a side-point of the email.

Try to think about the difference between where you left off and where you are now in the email.

How much have you progressed in your thoughts? Is it the same or have you gone off course?

Second, when you get to your late reply, try not to react to the message itself

If you respond to the message, you’re just reacting to what the person said in their email.

Rather, react to what they’re asking for and respond to that.

The goal of your apology is to get to know the person better and improve your communication with them.

Let the person responsible if they wish, and show that you are open to learning from them and that you are willing to make changes to improve your communication with them.

Third, figure out what is actually going on

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If your reply was being delayed by a matter of hours, then you should try to figure out why it took the person so long to get back to you.

Ask if there was any problem with the project, is there some issue with their schedule, are they feeling stressed or overworked, etc.

If you are not sure if their reply was delayed by a matter of hours, respond with a simple “Please let me know if you need any clarification.”

If you know why the person replied late, this will be much more meaningful.

Finally, figure out whether or not you need to make any changes

If you sent the email to resolve a potential conflict, in this case, figure out if your message was misinterpreted.

If it was, then you need to make sure that you change your message to address the issues that were brought up by the person.

Hopefully, these four points will help you to approach a late reply the right way.

If you don’t know the purpose of the email or if you haven’t received a response, then it’s not clear what your purpose was.

Use these points to help you understand your role in this situation and the best possible way to change things.

Have you ever gotten a late reply from a new customer or client? Have you ever sent an apologetic email for a late reply?

6 things to do when you're being cut off or ignored

Woman in white long sleeved shirt holding a pen writing on a paper

  1. Take note. Many people cut you off for not responding to their last message, or not taking the call, etc.
  2. Ask yourself why they don't like to get back to you.
  3. Ask if you can help them out.
  4. Get to the point.
  5. Get them off your back.
  6. Shut up and let them talk if they can't take your "good, timely advice".

As an executive coach and consultant, my goal is to help business owners and executives get to the right place quickly and with the right amount of help and guidance.

In my book, I devote a great deal of space to apology and I say many times that you don't need to apologize if you're doing your best.

But, I've done plenty of business coaching and consulting work with professionals who don't have a good grasp of what an apology means.

One day, a client told me that he didn't like to apologize because his boss always got mad when he did. That gave me pause.

I hadn't realized that apologizing was important to him and that even a good-intentioned gesture from him was only sometimes enough to avoid an argument.

Two weeks later, my client called and asked me if I would come and help him with his email. "We're having a problem," he told me. I'd not heard this before and asked what the problem was.

"I sent you an email and you never got back to me." "Where did you send the email?"

"You sent it to me and you never got back to me." I realized I needed to come and help him with his email.

I figured that apologizing for his delay might make sense.

So, here's how you apologize professionally:

  1. Start with an apology. If you never got back to me, please accept my apology for that. I'm truly sorry if you felt that I was ignoring you.
  2. Receive my apology and be grateful. If it sounds too familiar, you may want to reword it.
  3. Ask if you can help me. Asking me for my help doesn't mean that you don't need my apology. But, it does mean that I don't have to keep saying that I'm sorry.
  4. Here's an analogy for this: Do you love your significant other? You know you're supposed to say "I'm sorry" when you hurt their feelings. Do you like to keep apologizing? When your spouse forgets, you keep saying "I'm sorry" until they say "Stop apologizing" so you don't have to keep saying it.


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