Most of us are familiar with the five love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, gifts, and physical touch. We’ve taken tests to find out our own love language, talked with our friends or significant other about theirs, listened to podcasts about each one, and read books on them. The five love languages can be extremely helpful to know and understand when it comes to keeping healthy relationships in our lives. They help us understand more about how we show love and how we receive love. They also help us love the people around us better by knowing how they receive love. While learning about love languages is important, so is learning about the five apology languages. These specific languages dive deeply into how we apologize to others and which types of apologies we receive best. Forgiveness and being able and willing to apologize are necessary for healthy romantic relationships, healthy friendships, and interacting with people in general from classmates to coworkers. Here are the five apology languages and a quick breakdown of each one:
- Expressing Regret
This apology language is all about vocalizing the wrongdoing. At the root of this language is an understanding of the hurt that was caused alongside a clear expression of regret for causing that hurt. This apology might include a list or summary of the hurtful effects of the actions done and an articulation of remorse. Some signs that this is your apology language might be that you desire the person to acknowledge the specific pain they caused you, you want the person to vocalize that they regret those actions honestly, and you want to feel validated in your hurt feelings. Expressing regret focuses more on admitting and showing remorse for the wrongs done over what changes will be made to make sure it does not happen again. It focuses more on the past — what happened or what was done to cause hurt feelings. This language is all about showing the person you hurt that you are aware of the pain caused and that you genuinely feel bad about your actions or words.
Example: “I feel so bad that I did ____ or that I didn’t do ____. I’m so sorry. I feel horrible about it.”
- Accepting Responsibility
This apology language is all about owning the wrongs that were done. At the core of this language is accountability where the person earnestly admits that what they did or what they said was wrong, inappropriate, insensitive, etc. The opposite of this language is evasiveness in an apology. Accepting responsibility places emphasis not only on what specific thing was done to cause hurt feelings but also on why it was wrong. Some signs that this is your apology language might be that you desire the person who hurt you to take ownership of the offense or damage they caused, you do not want the apology to be vague or evasive about the wrong that was done, and you do not wish to hear a list of excuses about why the person did what they did to you. This language is direct and involves both people taking ownership of their roles in a particular situation.
Example: “I apologize for ____ that I did to you. There is no excuse for my actions and I am aware of that. I am sorry for my actions or words towards you.”
- Making Restitution
This apology language not only includes the acknowledgement of the hurt that was caused, but also the specific efforts that are going to be made to correct or make up for the situation. Let’s say you let your friend borrow something and they broke or lost it. They would apologize and then also replace the item or pay for the repairs if possible. Another example might be a fight or disagreement with your boyfriend. Let’s say he said something to you that really hit a nerve. He might apologize and then vocalize his effort to not use those words or mention that sore subject to you again. This apology language includes an effort to change behavior or compensation. Making restitution is a language bigger than just words; it is about doing something to ensure that the conflict does not arise again. It focuses on a visible or tangible demonstration of love and affection. A sign that this is your apology language might be that you want the person who hurt you to prove in some way that they care about you and take the offense or problem seriously. Another sign is that you want the person who hurt you to extend the olive branch first or initiate the conversation.
Example: “I’m so sorry for what I did. This is what I’m going to do to make things right/ensure that you do not get hurt in this way again. What can I do to fix this?”
- Genuinely Repenting
This apology language is all about a sincere will to do better. This language requires a significant amount of self-reflection for the person who messed up somehow. Genuinely repenting vocalizes a promise to prevent the hurt or offense from happening again. It focuses on a prevention of pain via reflection on what was done and desire to change. This language incorporates problem-solving — finding out ways to prevent arguments or misunderstandings to occur in the relationship or friendship. It asks, “What can we specifically do better next time to ensure that feelings are not hurt?” A sign that this is your apology language might be if you need some kind of proof or assurance that you won’t be hurt in this way again and that the person who hurt you truly wants to change and find ways towards relational harmony.
Example: “I apologize for ____. Next time, I’ll do ____ instead to ensure I do not get hurt again. What are some ways we can ensure that this doesn’t happen again?”
- Requesting Forgiveness
This apology language requires more time. It gives the person that was hurt time to reflect on the situation, process their emotions, and decide to receive the apology given. Requesting forgiveness doesn’t assume that the person will choose to forgive you or will be able to honestly forgive you then and there. It emphasizes the importance of allowing the person you hurt to fully process their emotions and vocalize them. It’s acknowledging that things may not ever go back to how they were or that it will take some time before they do. This language is typically more evident in situations where feelings were deeply hurt or where there was a significant amount of damage done to the relationship or friendship. Some signs that this is your apology language might be if reconciliation takes a little more time for you, you need space after an apology, or you want to know that the person apologizing to you will be patient with you.
Example: “I’m so sorry for ____, would you please forgive me? I hope you’ll forgive me, but I understand that it might take time for you to do.”
Being able and willing to apologize is vital to all relationships’ health and longevity. Being able and willing to forgive is just as important. Learning how to apologize and which ways the people around us truly receive apologies strengthens our communication and ultimately our relationships with them.
Take this quick test to find out your apology language!