The key to a good "sorry I'm late" apology isn't how you say it, it's what you actually apologise for. Photo by Vincent Albanese.
Being late is a part of life, and it's always polite to apologise when it happens. But what makes a good apology? During the Peak Work Performance Summit, psychologist Ron Friedman asked Peter Bregman, the author of Four Seconds: All the Time You Need to Stop Counter-Productive Habits and Get the Results You Want. Bregman explained that most people apologise for the wrong things when they're late for something:
Most people will apologise and offer an excuse. "I'm sorry I'm late, this meeting ran over." "...I'm sorry I'm late, I didn't intend to be late." But the person who's been waiting for you for twenty minutes isn't experiencing your intention. They're experiencing the impact of the result.
Instead of offering up a reason or excuse for why you were late, Bregman suggests you focus your apology on the impact you've made or the problems you've caused. Say something like "Sorry for keeping you waiting" or "I'm so sorry for taking up more of your time" or even "Thank you for your flexibility." If you show everyone that you're sorry for using up their valuable time, your apology will sound much more sincere.