Have you ever had someone apologize in front of a group of people and one person thought the apology was sincere while you thought it was not? If so, you are not alone.
According to Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages and The Five Languages of Apology, people speak different love languages and they also speak different languages of apology. Even when someone says they are sorry, in many instances the other person may not hear it as a sincere apology for a number of reasons.
“Most people are looking for specifics in an apology—and unless they hear it or recognize it, they don’t trust it,” says Chapman. “The person who has been hurt needs to know for certain that the apology is genuine. But how do we communicate such sincerity? Therein lies the problem. What one person considers a sincere apology may not sound, or actually be, sincere to another person.”
Apology is about validating the other person’s feelings when they have been hurt or wronged. When you start the process of forgiveness, you’re on your way to reconnecting.
The five languages of apology are:
- Expressing regret – This is the emotional aspect of an apology. People who speak this language believe it is important to acknowledge that you offended them and to express your own sense of guilt, shame and pain that your behavior has hurt them deeply. Actually being able to say “I am sorry” is very important to a person who speaks this language.
- Accepting responsibility – In this instance an apology means accepting responsibility for one’s actions and being willing to say “I was wrong.” This is often very difficult because admitting you are wrong can be perceived as weakness.
- Making restitution – For an apology to be genuine, it isn’t just about saying “I am sorry.” Instead, it’s all about making things right for 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.
- Genuinely repenting – The word repentance means “to turn around” or to change one’s mind. If a person speaks this language of apology they are expecting that you not only apologize, but that you will seek not to repeat the offense again in the future.
- Requesting forgiveness - A person who speaks this language believes that an apology not only includes “I am sorry,” but also a request for forgiveness. Requesting forgiveness indicates to some that you want to see the relationship fully restored.
“A husband shared with me that as soon as he read the book he understood what had been going on in his marriage,” Chapman says. “He explained that his language of apology is expressing regret. If his wife said that, he considered the situation put to rest. But if he said ‘I’m sorry’ to her, she had trouble forgiving him. He even lectured her about being able to let go of things once an apology had been offered. He didn’t understand why she would want to hold on to these things. After reading the book, he realized her language of apology is making restitution. He never thought about what he needed to do to make it up to her. She would say to him, ‘Well, you think you can just say ‘I’m sorry’ and things will be just fine, but things aren’t just fine.’ He really needed to ask what he needed to do to make this up to her.”
When someone apologizes, they accept responsibility for their behavior and seek to make amends with the offended person. A genuine apology opens the door to the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation so the relationship can continue to grow. Without an apology, the offense sits as a barrier, diminishing the quality of the relationship.
Chapman encourages people to determine their language of apology and share it with their spouse, family members and co-workers.
“I encourage people to make a little cheat sheet so that when an offense occurs toward a spouse, child, family member or co-worker, they know what language of apology to speak to that particular person,” Chapman says. “Good relationships are always marked by a willingness to apologize, forgive and reconcile.”