We all make mistakes – it’s an inevitable part of being human. Most people use the phrase “My bad” as a very informal and light apology used to take ownership of a mistake or error. In common everyday use, the phrase is contrition and a slangy way of saying, “I’m sorry, that was my fault.”
Depending on the context in which someone says, “My bad,” some people may find the statement trite, offhand, and insincere.
In other cases, especially in very informal situations where you have a more casual relationship with the other person, it may not be a big deal.
To “My bad,” a short and polite response is best, such as, “All good, apology accepted.” Be careful not to use a negative undertone; otherwise, the situation could become unpleasant.
“My Bad” and Formal Settings
You rarely encounter the phrase “my bad” in a formal, business, or professional setting, at least not in formal discourse. The statement is considered slang and unprofessional. You would be hard-pressed to find someone using it in a corporate conversation.
However, some casual interactions within a professional environment are acceptable, such as informal communication between colleagues. If this is the case, a simple casual reply to “my bad” is only natural.
For example, you can reply with:
“It’s okay. It happens to the best of us.”
“No harm done.”
“Don’t mention it.”
If you want to, you can give a more formal response such as:
“Thank you, I appreciate you saying that.“
“Please don’t let it happen again!”
“I accept your apology, but I’d ask that you don’t repeat the mistake.”
A formal reply is also appropriate if the mistake is serious.
Informal Situations and the Freedom of Response
In informal settings, there is no appropriate definitive way to reply to the phrase “my bad.” There’s a lot of leeway on how you can respond to this light form of apology.
However, some factors can affect your response. These factors include how you feel about the statement as an apology, your relationship with the other person, and the context in which the phrase was said.
If you think the apology is not genuine
Starting with the first factor, some people generally dislike the phrase “my bad” and find it annoying. This is understandable, especially if you don’t have a particularly close relationship with the other person. This can also be the case if the mistake is not something minor.
Some people take the statement as a way of admitting a mistake without properly apologizing.
Moreover, the tone and body language of the other person can contribute to this feeling. The conversation below between Jeff and Anne below as an example can better illustrate this point:
Anne: “Jeff, you just spilled water on my term paper!“
Jeff: “Err.. my bad.”
You can probably tell in an instant that Anne isn’t going to take kindly to the light apology. For Anne, in this discourse, Jeff’s apology may sound something like, “I did something wrong and recognize that I did it, but since there’s nothing that can be done about it now, there’s no reason for a proper apology, so we assume it’ll never happen again and move on.”
Therefore, if you have particularly strong feelings about the phrase “my bad” as an apology, it may come off close to something like this in your head. “My bad” can seem like a manner of apologizing that communicates that the other person doesn’t care about the situation, similar to saying “whatever.”
If this is the case for you, then how do you respond?
It may be tempting to respond with a reply that you feel will be similarly annoying, but you don’t want to be that person.
You can choose to shelve your dissatisfaction and respond with a simple:
“It’s okay, I forgive you.”
“Water under the bridge.”
“I understand completely. No worries.”
“It’s all good.”
You can also say:
“Thanks, just ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
This reply subtly communicates to the other person that they shouldn’t repeat the mistake.
If you feel like you want to respond with a similarly offhand or even let out a sarcastic remark, staying quiet is an option. Not responding to “my bad” may be the ideal choice in this context.
On the other hand, you can take the opportunity to communicate how you feel about this type of apology. To avoid any future misunderstanding and possible resentment and contempt, you can respond by acknowledging the apology but clearly stating that you would appreciate a proper apology.
In this regard, you can say:
“I appreciate that you’ve acknowledged your mistake, and it’s no big deal, but to me, ‘My bad’ comes off as a dismissive apology, I’m sorry is much better.”
“It’s okay. But it would be best if you’d use a proper apology. ‘My bad’ can come off a little bit rude.”
“I forgive you, but I would appreciate it if you’d apologize in a better manner as ‘My bad’ seems like you’re avoiding acknowledging your mistake”
Overall, ensure that you are clear and respectful as you voice your problem with the phrase and why it comes off as flippant to you. The other person is more likely to respond positively to your constructive criticism, and your future interactions will be smoother.
Note the context of the conversation
How you relate to the other person and the context of the conversation can also guide your response.
If you have a very close and casual relationship with your audience, how you respond wouldn’t really matter as long you aren’t rude, disrespectful, or harsh.
If it’s a minor matter and both of you don’t think much about it, any casual reply can do.
“No big deal.”
“Don’t mention it.”
“You should be, but I forgive you.”
If you have a minor squabble with a friend or family member, you can say, “I only accept gift apologies,” and other funny remarks to quell and make light of the situation.
However, ensure the other party has the right sense of humor for these types of replies. A funny reply can ease tensions and create a better scene to continue a conversation.
Sophie Hammond is a journalist, psychologist, and freelance speechwriter for people in politics and business. She lives on the edge of the Rocky Mountains with her dog and a lifetime supply of books. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through nature or journaling at a coffee shop.