I’m sure that there was a time in your life when you have offended someone and you didn’t really mean it. Your emotions heighten, you feel some extent of remorse, you soften up and then the hardest words come out of your mouth. “I’m sorry.” The offended person turns to look at you with tear-filled eyes and tells you “I don’t believe it.” What do you do then?
This entry has been inspired by Gary Chapman’s book “Things I wish I’d known before we Got Married”
When you’re out of Words
Sometimes “I’m sorry” doesn’t cut it and I’m sure you’ve had your shares of when that happens. There are several reasons behind why some people don’t accept your apology. But to sum it all up, it’s mostly because you have a different Apology Language. It is something to help you be sincere to the person you’re apologizing to. You can be REALLY sincere but the other person will not see it that way. These apology languages helps you to reach out your sincerity to the person you’re apologizing to.
A Form of Dialect?
You might not know it but there are different means to communicate love to a person. I’m sure you’ve heard of The Five Love Languages. A study by Dr. Gary Chapman also suggests that people also have different means to communicate an apology to a person.
This apology language expresses itself in such a way that the person you offended should know how much you understand your offense. This apology language is an emotional one and you should express to the person you offended how much you regret your actions that hurt him/her.
Sometimes people want to know that you understand the extent of his/her pain and regret inflicting it – in order for them to more easily accept your apology. Expressing regret usually starts with the words “I’m sorry” and then it should go on to explain to the offended person how you think you’ve offended him/her.
If this is the apology language of the person you’ve hurt, what that person wants you to know is “Do you know how deeply you’ve hurt me?” Any apology that falls short of this will not make the cut.
2. Accepting Responsibility
This apology language is all about carrying the blame for your wrongdoings. Usually in a conflict, two people hurt each other and both parties need reconciliation. Accepting responsibility is an apology language where you express ownership of your wrong decisions.
This apology language usually starts with “I was wrong” and it should go on to explain to the person how and why you were wrong. The person who’s apology language is accepting responsibility is waiting for you to admit that your behavior was wrong and you understand why. For this person, “I’m sorry” just doesn’t sound like an apology.
3. Making Restitution
This apology language has only one goal: to make it right. Unless you make restitution for your offense, the person who’s apology language is making restitution will be wanting to know if you still love them.
The offense would seem so unloving to them that they wonder how you could love them and do what you did. The only apology they will accept is something that is aligned with their love language. If it’s physical touch, they may want you to hold them or perhaps a kiss. If it’s receiving gifts, they may want to receive something from you that would express your love, if it’s words of affirmation, they may want you to tell them how much you love them or remind them of special moments in the past. If it’s quality time, they may want to spend a weekend away with you. If it’s acts of service, they may want you to do something for them that would communicate your appreciation for them.
4. Genuinely Expressing the desire to Change your Behavior
This apology language aims to express to the other person your sincere regret and tries to resolve things in such a way that the offense will not happen again. For some people, if your apology does not include a real desire to change your behavior, you have not truly apologized. Whatever else you say or do falls short of sincerity if this is their apology language. In their minds, if you are sincerely apologizing, you will seek to change your behavior.
5. Requesting Forgiveness
This apology language starts with the words “Will you please forgive me?” If the person’s apology language is requesting forgiveness, this is what they will be waiting for and wanting to hear. In their minds, this is what an apology is all about. You have hurt them and they want to know, “Do you want to be forgiven? Do you want to remove the barrier that your behavior has caused?”
These apology languages aren’t magic potions. It’s always hard to apologize and to do it successfully. Understanding these 5 apology languages eases the process of apologizing and reconciliation – because after all, what people want to know when you are attempting to apologize is “Are you sincere?”
Speaking the right apology language to the person when you apologize helps them to see that your apology is sincere.
Marsha S. Haneiph says
This was edifying for me because I have what I call ‘foot-in-mouth’ syndrome. It means apologising on a regular basis. Thanks for this, Sean.