Sorry, But It’s Your Responsibility to Know Your Apology Languages

The Urban Monk

Saying we’re sorry is a confusing experience, but we’re presented with simple and immutable rules: If you hurt someone, say you’re sorry. If someone says they’re sorry, say you forgive them.

For most of us, those rules don’t get reexamined much since we’re taught them in kindergarten.

But Dr. Gary Chapman thinks they should be.

Recognize the name?

He’s the same man who brought us the five love languages… And in case you don’t remember those, they are:

Chapman believes it’s important to healthy, functioning relationships for each partner to understand how they prefer to receive love as well as give love.

The idea is that being able to reflect on your preferences allows you to effectively communicate them to your partner, and understand the ways they’re showing you love even if it isn’t the same way you would show love.

Turns out, knowing your apology language preferences is vitally important for conflict resolution.

How often have you found yourself frustrated that your partner thought a bunch of flowers would soften your ire when all you really wanted was for them to help with the laundry?

Or they said they were sorry, but didn’t seem to understand that you wanted them to show you that they were committed to changing the offending behavior?

Let’s break down the five apology languages so that you can clearly rank them for yourself.

Apology Language #1: Accepting Responsibility

This apology language is all about eliminating the “but” clause of an apology.

If this is your preferred apology language, you probably don’t often provide reasons or excuses for your behavior.

No mention of the traffic when you were late, because it doesn’t matter.

You were still late.

If this is your preferred apology receipt, it may not be clear to those around you and can cause friction when you feel like your needs can only be honored if the external circumstances allow it.

You may just want to hear someone say “I was wrong” without any decorative reasoning.

Apology Language #2: Expressing Regret

Here’s where you can include the “but” clause of an apology, as long as your remorse is sincere.

This may be your default apology style, and it may be enough to hear when someone else is sorry.

Consider carefully whether hearing this apology really solves the problem for you, and if giving this kind of apology really solves the problem for the intended party.

Apology Language #3: Requesting Forgiveness

This kind of apology style can serve as an addendum to any apology and is often overlooked.

Why?

But for someone you’ve hurt or offended, knowing that you’re willing to respect their decision about how to move forward from a transgression can be immensely healing.

Do you need to be asked for forgiveness? Are you also willing to ask if that’s what your loved one needs to hear?

Apology Language #4: Genuinely Repenting

Everyone’s interpretation of “genuine” is a little different, so you’ll have to get as granular as possible if this is your apology language.

Genuinely repenting can look like making a plan of action to prevent the offensive behavior from occurring again.

It can look like creating new systems to make the offended party feel more comfortable trusting you not to cause them hurt again.

Apology Language #5: Making Restitution

This apology style leans on knowledge of the five languages for it to work.

What will make you feel better when you’ve been hurt?

Making restitution is about reassuring the person you’ve offended that they’re loved and cared for, in their language — not yours.

It’s always worth having a conversation with your loved ones about your personal styles and preferences and being equally curious about theirs.

The real work is knowing yourself and your loved ones well enough to know what they need.

Make no mistake, this especially applies to your children.

One of the biggest differences between modern parenting and old-world parenting is that parents are owning up to their mistakes and apologizing with more clarity and honesty than ever before.

We don’t have to hide behind ancient ideas, like “admitting you were wrong leaves you open to loss of respect” or “your kids will take advantage of you if they sense they can.”

Apologizing early and often not only sets an example for how easy and painless it can be, but it can also open avenues of communication that become lifelines later on.

You’re human, you’re not perfect, and neither are your kids – part of conscious parenting is making sure they know you know that!

We talk a lot about respecting our children as fellow human beings in the docuseries my friend Nick Polizzi and I produced and filmed — “Conscious Parenting.”

All nine episodes are available to watch FOR FREE. Simply click here to sign up to watch it!

NY Times Best Selling Author, filmmaker, and founder of whole.tv.