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The Five Languages of Apology: And How It Is Affecting Your Relationships

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at DePaul chapter.

Did you know that understanding what someone needs from your apology can make it that much more effective? In most cases, saying “sorry,” is not enough. Then you start to question, what else is there to say? 

Like those moments where you find yourself apologizing for something repeatedly because your partner would not forgive you or would just not let it go. Sorry to break it to you, but your apology didn’t make the cut. Conflict unresolved.

Similar to “The Five Love Languages,” written by Dr. Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas, the pair also wrote “The Five Apology Languages.” The book breaks down the five different forms of apology and helps you find your preferred way of apologizing and feeling most heard and understood when your apology language is spoken. 

tic-tac-toe game with hearts

Now, let’s actually get into the five apology languages!

  1. Expressing Regret

Expressing regret focuses on the emotional harm you’ve experienced from the other person’s actions or behavior. Focusing on these emotions means that hearing a genuine “I’m sorry” goes a long way for you. When someone is expressing regret, you feel that they are expressing the guilt and shame they feel for hurting you or causing you pain. 


  1. Accepting Responsibility

This apology language requires the person who is apologizing to admit they were wrong and accept responsibility for their actions. This can be difficult to do as it is challenging to admit to someone’s mistakes, especially if those mistakes have caused pain to someone else. 

However, if this is your apology language, you are looking for a genuine apology that accepts responsibility and does not attempt to make excuses or justifications. For an apology to feel genuine, you need the other person to simply say “I am wrong,” without further explanation.

  1. Genuinely Repent

This language focuses on how the person apologizing will modify their behavior in similar future situations. Not only is there a genuine apology for the pain caused, but also verbalizations for the desire to change. 

Genuinely repenting takes an extra step towards change, as you need to hear the person express they want to change and set realistic goals for how they will make those changes. Unlike expressing regret, you are looking for that “next step” and how your partner will ensure this does not happen again. 

  1. Make Restitution

This apology language requires justification or explanation for the person’s wrongdoing. If this is your apology language, you want to hear from your partner that they still love you, even after hurting you. There are many ways to make restitution, especially if we look at the five love languages. 

To feel loved after an apology, your partner must meet your love language to make restitution. Essentially, you’re looking for assurance that your partner still cares and is attempting to assure you by meeting your needs in the ways that are most important to you. 

  1. Request Forgiveness

This apology language is all about asking for forgiveness and giving your partner space to decide if they forgive you. If this is your apology language, it is meaningful to you for your partner to actually ask for your forgiveness. Requesting forgiveness is much different than demanding forgiveness. 

Demanding forgiveness takes away from the sincerity of an apology. The key to requesting forgiveness is to allow the hurt partner to make the final decision, rather than force it upon them. 

And there you have it! That is all five of the apology languages. Have you figured out which language fits you best? Or do you feel that more than one language describes you?

If you haven’t figured it out just yet, that is okay! Almost all of us have more than one apology language that resonates with us. This is simply a guide to help you figure out which one is the primary and utmost important apology language for you! 

Need a little guidance? No problem! Take this quiz to help you and your partner identify which language is the best fitting. 

Afterward, I challenge you to sit down and have a conversation about it with your partner and even your friends. Want to take the conversation a step further? Find us (@HerCampusDePaul) on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and tell us what your preferred apology language is!


Catrina is a junior at DePaul University, majoring in Film and Television with a concentration in Screenwriting. She is not only interested in writing screenplays, but also romance novels! When she is not working on her own material, she is either watching a film or reading a book. If you want to follow her on social media, you can find her on Instagram and Twitter (@hereiscatrina).