The 5 Apology Languages

In a previous post, I shared that an important influence of our ability to build and maintain healthy relationships is our ability to give and receive love – specifically in ways that reflect our primary love language as identified by Dr. Gary Chapman.

If there’s one thing about loving relationships that I think we all would agree on, it would be the belief that the people we love are not perfect. Learning how to live in harmony despite those imperfections is often challenging and this challenge can be further complicated by the need for amends. For many of us making amends means giving or receiving an apology, and many issues can be resolved with a “sorry.”

However, there are times when “sorry” is not enough and knowing what a loved one needs to truly feel the sincerity of your attempt to make amends becomes necessary. According to Dr. Chapman and Jennifer Thomas (authors of The Five Languages of Apology), there are five languages of apology in which we can communicate sincere apology:

1. Expressing regret: For many of us, in order to forgive we need to hear the other person express regret for the harm that they have cause. ex. “I’m sorry;” and if you’re from the south like I am, “My bad” and “My fault,” may work too!

2. Accepting responsibility: For some, hearing the other person acknowledge and accept where or how they are responsible for the harm caused is important. ex. “I’m sorry I didn’t hear you, it was my fault for not paying attention.”

3. Making restitution: Sometimes restitution can be made by replacing a lost of broken item. Other times, it is important for us to make restitution after hurting a loved one by reassuring them that they are loved. One of the best ways to do so is by communicating in their Love Language. ex. giving words of affirmation, spending quality time, performing acts of service, giving a gift, or using physical touch.

4: Genuinely repenting: For many of us, an apology feels less sincere if it is missing reassurance that effort will be made towards not making the mistake again. While bad habits are hard to break, hearing that a loved one is committed to change can make forgiveness easier. ex. “I’m sorry I missed your call. I’ll do better with keeping my ringer on when I leave the house.”

5. Requesting forgiveness: This can be the hardest to do because it requires the person at fault to admit failure, accept the risk of rejection and allow the other person to be in control of what happens next. However when successful, asking for forgiveness often frees the offender from guilt and ultimately brings comfort to all involved. It is the hardest but most important to healing maintaining healthy relationships. ex. “Will you forgive me?” “Can you give me another chance?”

Apologizing requires a level of vulnerability that once accomplished, is most likely to result in stronger and more supportive relationships. I encourage taking the quiz to learn what your primary apology language is, and using this insight to help your loved ones better understand what sincerity looks like for you.

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