How To Apologize To A Coworker For Being Rude

March 31, 2021

Apologies should always be a two-way street. In fact, you should strive to be a genuine, sincere, and caring person to others.

And you shouldn’t apologize when you are not wrong. This might not sound like a lot of guidelines, but if you don’t know how to respond to a coworker, then your business will suffer.

Being abrasive and trying to defend your actions are just two ways that you can become insincere, which in turn can cause a rift between you and others.

If you are going to apologize, do so sincerely and stand behind your statement. Be nice, do this to make your relationships better and to improve business.

So, with that said, how to apologize when you are in the wrong.

How to apologize to a coworker

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So, if you are in the wrong, there are different ways to apologize. The easiest way to do so is by saying that you made a mistake.

Don’t try to make it seem like you didn’t do anything wrong, but rather that you made a mistake. After all, if you make a mistake, no one is judging you for that.

Another way to apologize is by stating that you’re sorry for what you did. To the point of saying sorry and continuing.

The actual problem is that it is what you did, but it does not stop the other person from responding.

Do not beg for their forgiveness. If they ask for it, you’re guilty and you just permitted them to continue their negative behavior.

Keep it short and sweet

Do not use the word “but” or the phrase, “but it isn’t exactly what you’re thinking.”

Just go straight into apologizing. For example, “I’m sorry I [expletive] up yesterday. It was disrespectful and it wasn’t okay. [Expletive] you. I did it and I’m sorry.”

Do not use the word “if” in your apology.

You do not have to make excuses or even justify your actions. Be upfront and honest, even if it might make you sound like a jerk.

If the other person is a jerk, that’s okay. You don’t have to say, “I made a mistake but if you’d [expletive] done [insert common curse word here] you’d be less of an asshole.”

If you use “if” or something similar, you’ll only make your apology seem like you are trying to defend your actions.

Some other words to avoid in your apology are “if” and the phrases “I’m sorry if” or “You’re right.”

There’s no excuse to say these words in a second or third apology. This is an immediate apology and you need to be sincere.

Even if you’re sorry, it doesn’t justify what you did.

Finally, use the phrase “thank you” after you apologize. It makes you seem like you really care, which is an important quality in business relationships.

How to apologize like a pro

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If you want to be more effective at apologizing, try these suggestions.

Be direct. It’s more effective to be blunt. Make it clear to the person that you are sorry.

Avoid passive-aggressive language. Saying “I’m sorry if” or “I’m sorry if you’re angry” does not make you sound apologetic. Be direct and be sincere.

Don’t apologize with the intent to take credit for the apology. You can apologize, but it doesn’t mean that you get credit for apologizing.

Saying, “I’m sorry if I [expletive] up yesterday. I just didn’t see it coming. I’m sorry I’m so clumsy.”

Follow-up. While apologizing, it’s best to follow-up with positive action. This shows that you care about the person and are genuinely sorry that they were upset.

It’s better to apologize and say you’re sorry than to just say you’re sorry. If the other person takes your apology and ignores it, it only hurts your relationship.

It also makes the person think you’re a weak person. You’re not weak. It’s actually very effective to express remorse and then follow-up with positive action.

There are few things worse in business relationships than someone who is a bad loser and a poor liar. There is no doubt that you have a high threshold for pain and will try to rationalize your mistakes or behavior.

But it’s time to stop apologizing and start being a better person.

Be thankful for the opportunity to move on

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The biggest benefit you’ll receive from apologizing to a difficult person is the ability to move on.

You can’t spend your life regretting what happened and you can’t spend your life obsessing over the problem.

There will be consequences. If you apologize to someone, this could lead to disciplinary action, increased job responsibilities, or reduced pay.

If your workplace culture has a general acceptance of bullying, this could cause an issue, as well.

Sometimes what you did was at fault, but sometimes what you did is unacceptable. In either case, it’s up to you to make the right decision and move on.


This may sound like “too little, too late,” but that is precisely what you need to do. You have a choice. You can allow the situation to destroy you or you can get up, dust off your shoulders, and move forward.

Let’s say you’re dealing with an employee who yells at people. What should you do?

You could deal with the situation yourself. Try to encourage the person to work through their emotions and then, let them go.

On the other hand, you could call the police, tell them your employee is threatening you, and leave. This is a horrible situation that has been avoided.

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