What is an Apology? Understanding the 5 Languages of Apology

The Importance of Understanding the Languages of Apology

Most everybody can think of a time when their spouse did something hurtful.  When the offense was brought up, maybe your spouse flippantly said, “I’m sorry” and moved on.  Maybe he or she felt like an apology had been given – but you felt disrespected and more hurt.

So, what constitutes an apology?  According to Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Languages of Apology, it all depends. Chapman shares that most people are looking for specifics in an apology—and unless they hear it or recognize it, they don’t trust it. First and foremost, the person who has been hurt needs to know that the apology is genuine. An apology is about validating the other person’s feelings when they have been hurt or wronged. This is where pride can get in the way.  According to Chapman, there are five languages of apology. When you understand which language your spouse speaks, it will help you start the process of forgiveness and reconnect as a couple. Here they are:

1. Expressing regret.

This is about acknowledging that you offended your spouse and expressing your own sense of guilt, shame, and pain that your behavior was hurtful. Actually being able to say “I am sorry” is very important to a person who speaks this language.

2. Accepting responsibility.

An apology means accepting responsibility for your actions and being willing to say “I was wrong.”

3. Making restitution.

For an apology to be genuine to a person who speaks this language, they want acknowledgment of the wrongdoing and they want to know what you are going to do to make it right.

4. Genuinely repenting.

If a person speaks this language, they are expecting that you not only apologize, but that you seek not to repeat the offense again in the future.

5. Requesting forgiveness.

Combining the words “I am sorry” with a request for forgiveness is important to the spouse who speaks this language.

Picture of Julie Baumgardner, MS, CFLE

Julie Baumgardner, MS, CFLE

President and CEO, First Things First

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