How to Apologize Effectively
“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” Matthew 5:23-24 (NLT)
I decided to take a break from discussing insecurity this week. I promise we’ll go back to it! I stumbled onto something pretty cool this past week that I thought I’d share with you. I think you’ll like it too! It’s a free personal profile to discover your “apology language”.
I’m a HUGE fan of Dr. Gary Chapman, who is best known for his New York Times bestseller: The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts and the series of books that go along with it. A few years ago I was listening to one of the Focus on the Family podcasts, and Dr. Chapman was discussing the Five Love Languages and how there are also five languages of apology. He’s co-authored a book with Dr. Jennifer Thomas titled When Sorry Isn’t Enough: Making Things Right with Those You Love in which they detail the study of apologies and how people give and receive them. Listening to the podcast, I found this very intriguing because I’ve noticed myself sometimes having a hard time receiving somebody’s apology simply because of the delivery or because it didn’t feel genuine to me. Dr. Chapman mentioned that “If you receive an apology that omits your apology language, chances are you won’t fully accept it or even recognize it as an apology.” The goal of their book was to help people “learn the techniques to effectively recognize and deliver apologies and watch relationships thrive as a result”.
The five basic languages of apology are:
- Accept Responsibility—this is basically just admitting you are wrong and accepting full responsibility for your actions
- Expressing Regret—this is a genuine “I’m sorry” and show of remorse for causing pain
- Make Restitution—in this form of apology you commit to making things right
- Genuinely Repent—this shows the sincere desire to modify your behavior and future actions
- Request Forgiveness—in this apology language you recognize the need for forgiveness, and you physically ask for forgiveness
I follow Dr. Chapman on Twitter (@DrGaryChapman), and this past week I clicked on one of his tweets about practically speaking the love languages (I always love learning more). It took me to his website 5lovelanguages.com where I discovered the profile designed to help you discover your apology language. Instantly I remembered hearing about the apology languages a few years back, and the weird thing is that the previous week in one of my classes about conflict resolution I had JUST discussed how people apologize differently and about hearing Dr. Chapman talk about it years ago. I’m telling you, I was freakin’ excited! I immediately took the online profile (took about 10 minutes).
My results didn’t surprise me, but they made a lot of sense. I kind of had the feeling, “Well, that explains it!” My primary language is Accept Responsibility, with Expressing Regret as a close second. It’s very true—I want to hear people say “I’m wrong” and to actually hear the words “I’m sorry” come out of their mouth. To me, anything else is beating around the bush. However, the cool thing is that I also had a small paradigm shift (I had the same thing happen after I took the love language profile years ago). I learned about the other languages, and even though they may not be my preferred language, they very well might be someone else’s. Now I will be able to recognize a genuine apology (even if it’s not in my preferred language) because I will see that the other person is simply apologizing in their own preferred apology language. This is very helpful because we can’t always MAKE someone apologize to us in the way that we want.
Along the lines of making apologies, I also recently read an excellent blog post by CuppaCocoa.com about a better way to apologize that we’ve started practicing in our home. The idea is to use four phrases when apologizing. I’ve noticed that it fits perfectly with the apology languages because it hits almost all five apology preferences.
How to apologize better:
- I’m sorry for… (Expressing Regret)
- It was wrong because… (Accept Responsibility)
- In the future, I will… (Genuinely Repent)
- Will you please forgive me? (Request Forgiveness)
The only language missing is Make Restitution, which could be included by adding a statement or action referencing what you will do to make it right (Note: Dr. Chapman recommends making restitution in the other person’s primary love language in order for the apology to be most effective). Apologizing in this way will trigger each and every person’s apology language and show that you are sincere.
Take some practical steps:
Take the Apology Language Profile
Learn about your own preferences, BUT also study the others so that you will be able to effectively recognize when other people are just using their own apology language preference
Start using the 4 (or 5) step approach to apologizing: I’m sorry for…, It was wrong because…, In the future, I will…, Will you please forgive me? (and attempt to make some sort of restitution)
**Next week, we’ll head back to overcoming insecurity and discuss how to stop comparing ourselves to other people.
What does it take for you to feel like an apology is sincere? What new insight have you gained from learning about different ways of apologizing? Leave a comment below (or click “Read in browser>>” if you’re viewing through e-mail).
Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are rude, disrespectful, offensive, or off-topic. By posting on this site you agree to my Comment Policy.
If you have benefited from this post or if you know anyone that could benefit from this, please pay it forward and share this post with them via the sharing links below! “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 1 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)There are affiliate links in this post.