Apology Languages are important

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Apology Languages are important. I have previously written and made a podcast about Love Languages and how they can be significant in creating and maintaining a healthy loving relationship: 

Did you realise however that we also have an Apology Language?

This is the way that we express and like to receive what can be difficult to say – ‘I’m sorry’. As with the love languages, it is likely something that you haven’t really put much thought into. And why would you? Sorry is sorry right? No … as with the love languages we all like to receive it in our own way, a way that we can actually accept that it is meant and then allows us to move on. 

I’m sorry could be all that a person needs, but to others they can seem like just empty meaningless words that ensures, that to them, this problem is not dealt with. 

People make mistakes and to be quite frank, can mess up big time! Expressing remorse or regret, taking responsibility, making restitution and asking for forgiveness need to be delivered with a well-meaning and sincere apology. 

These languages are again from the work of Gary Chapman, who brought us the 5 love languages, along with Jennifer Thomas. As with the love languages, we all tend to have a favoured type of apology language, but these can fluctuate depending on the circumstances and we may well use and prefer to receive more than one. 

So, what are the 5 Apology Languages, what do they look like and see if you can recognise the one that resonates with you the most? I will include a link to take a test I found online at the end of this article. 

Expressing Regret

This is key for people who believe that words only mean something if remorse is also shown. It is not enough to just say sorry just because you have been caught, so this apology needs to come with an understanding of what you are apologising for and maybe even a full admission and a list of what you have done that the other person hasn’t found acceptable. 

This is likely to be your apology language if:

  1. You want someone to acknowledge the pain they have caused
  2. You need your emotions to respected and validated
  3. You need to see some genuine regret

You may want to hear something like – “I feel ashamed of how I hurt you”

Accepting Responsibility

This is when someone openly admits that they were wrong to have done something. Sharing that they take responsibility and can name the thing that they have done to clarify that they indeed, are aware of their actions. 

Without this, then forgiveness is hard to come by. 

There is a significant difference between saying ‘you’re right’ and ‘I’m wrong!’

This could be your apology language if: 

You need someone to take complete ownership of the pain they have caused

You don’t want to hear excuses

A clear admission of what they did wrong and that they are willing to rectify this in the future

You may want to hear something like – “I was wrong for doing that to you”

Making Restitution

This language includes a way of trying to rectify the situation, making amends, search for a way to correct the wrong. Example situations could be: when something has been broken, damaged or lost. Forgot the birthday or anniversary? What can you do to show it was an error and you want to make up for it?

On a more serious note, it also comes up with betrayal and how someone can make up to the other person for this.

This could be your apology language if:

You need someone to show they are willing to correct the issue – ‘put their money where their mouth is’ ‘actions speak louder than words’ and so on.

You require them to improve on this particular negative trait to make things right. 

You need them to take the lead in making it all ok again before you can move on.

You may want to hear something like – “This is how I will make it up to you”

Genuinely Repenting

Here a person will need to review their actions, has real regret for them and makes a commitment to prove they are changing or will change. Saying sorry will just never be enough. There should be a sincere drive to do and be better, cultivate change and a new side of you. Engaging in a way forward and making specific plans to do so.

This could be your apology language if: 

You require assurances that this won’t happen again.

Words are just not nearly enough for you. 

You need proof that the person is intent on fixing the issue.

You may want to hear something like – “I can only imagine how much pain that caused you, I am very sorry and I won’t do that again. Next time I will do it differently”

Requesting Forgiveness

This apology language allows time for the other person to process their hurt before assuming everything will go back to normal. They need time and space to in order to forgive someone and may not be able to move on straightaway. 

They need to feel that they have the power in their hands to decide whether to allow things to move forward. 

You may want to hear something like – I’m so sorry for letting you down. Can you find it in your heat to forgive me?”

As mentioned, we all have a preferred apology language, but you will likely require a bit from each in order to feel satisfied by the sorry that comes your way. 

Other studies have suggested that there are a specific six steps to an apology and won’t be effective if all of these are not present. These are:

  • Expression of regret
  • Explanation of what went wrong
  • Acknowledgment of responsibility
  • Declaration of independence 
  • Offer of repair
  • Request of forgiveness

Apologising and becoming more aware is great, but without changes in action and physical proof of continued movement means that a lot of apologising won’t be enough to help other people feel that we are sincere in our apologies. 

Try not to move away from others when you mess up, no matter how hard that may seem to be. 

Be accountable in those uncomfortable moments and restating your commitment to change, which is then followed up by visible action.”

Why is it so important to know your apology language and that of others?

Assuming you want your relationship to work out long term then apology languages are significant to understand. We need to be able to apologise in a way that all people feel heard, respected and valued. The languages can allow individuals to strengthen their relationships by improving their ability to facilitate forgiveness.

If you have a healthy view and experience of relationships (which we know some people do not, based on their own maladaptive relating patterns), then the end goal is to be able to move past arguments with each other, express regret and accepting responsibility for the things we have done and then putting the relevant changes in place, will make this a much easier thing to do. 

To avoid misunderstandings and prolonged problems along with a deeper understanding of your partner and yourself, get to know your apology language and theirs. Oh, and act accordingly when these instances occur.

What to do if your preferred style is different from your partner? 

As with love languages, you need to be able to apologise in the way that the other person likes to receive it. 

As with the love languages, if you prefer words of affirmation, but they like acts of service, you can tell them you love them and do things for them at the same time. It doesn’t have to be just one way. The same will be said of them too, they can say they love you just as easy as doing something for you. 

Not only does this make the apology come across as needed, but it also deepens your connection as it shows an extra effort for the sake of your relationship. 

So, it doesn’t matter which your preferred way is, you just need to practice what means something to them. Communicating is always key in relationships and is essential here. It is something that will need working on and through, so don’t be harsh on each other whilst you get used to it. 

When do you need to apologise? 

On the whole, if you feel or think you need to apologise for something, then you probably do.

But that may not always be the case. As I have discussed previously, some people can manipulate you in to doing the things they need you to do in order to gain or remain in control in relationships – in the extreme they can gaslight you into believing you need to apologise to them, even when you are certain you haven’t done anything wrong. 

Take the apology languages quiz to find out your preferred style.

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John Kenny is a Transformational Relationship Coach, Founder of Interpersonal Relationship Coaching (IRC), Author of The P.E.O.P.L.E. Programme, Speaker and Documentary Maker. He has been involved in the field of personal development for over fifteen years and in that time has not only helped thousands of clients, but has also completely changed his own life. He spent his life full of self-doubt, carrying negative beliefs from his childhood that impacted in every area - his relationships, his career and his time as an International Athlete. It has become John's passion to help as many people as possible to live a life that they choose. IRC is a fusion of Coaching, Counselling, Hypnotherapy and NLP and is used to unlock the things that stops people achieving, that holds them back, keeps them stuck and unfulfilled - to living the life that they choose.

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