Apology Languages: What’s Yours?

So, you've heard about the five love languages. Maybe you've even done the online quiz to find out your own. In case you don't know what I'm referring to, it's called the five love languages by Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Jennifer Thomas. According to them, the five universal languages to communicate love include words of affirmation, physical touch, receiving gifts, acts of service and quality time. While most of us can welcome any of the five love gestures, we typically value and appreciate one or two languages the most.

Although less well-known, Dr. Chapman also contributed to the study of the languages of apology. He concluded there are five languages of apology, including expressing regret, accepting responsibility, making restitution, genuinely repenting and requesting forgiveness. Like the love languages, most of us have one primary apology language that we find the most important.

Love is great and all, but learning the languages of apology are important in any relationship. Sometimes just saying or hearing, "I'm sorry," isn't enough. Maybe you have this problem with your parents, friends, partners or even coworkers. They could apologize for something over and over again, but you can't find it within yourself to forgive them. That's okay. Likely, they're just not speaking the same language as you. Understanding what people need to hear from an apology can save both sides a lot of heartaches. So, what are the five apology languages?

Expressing regret

Simply put, it's not really an apology until you hear the words "I'm sorry." Individuals who fall into this category want to know that the other person understands how they hurt you and express regret for doing so. It's important to you that others acknowledge the consequences of their actions and how they emotionally affected you.

Accepting responsibility

It's easy to displace responsibility for an action that may have caused harm to others. In this apology language, it's not enough to only say "I'm sorry," but also necessary to accept responsibility for their behaviour. Individuals in this category don't care much for the reasons why someone might've done something they did but would rather others show a level of sincerity when apologizing. You don't want to hear others make excuses or try to justify their actions, only to admit they're at fault.

Genuinely repent

Words don't mean much unless you act upon them. This is your apology language if you're the type of person who wants to hear how others are going to change their behaviour in future similar situations. You want to know the other person will set action plans for how to make sure harming you won't happen again.

Make restitution

Explain, but don't make excuses. You don't want to know why it happened but would, more importantly, want to know that the other person still cares about you and is willing to show you. Here, the five love languages are useful to know to make restitution. You want to feel reassured by having the other person meet your needs in ways that are important to you.

Request forgiveness

This apology language may seem like the most basic and easiest one to do, but there's a difference between feeling entitled to forgiveness and directly asking for it. You want others to genuinely request forgiveness rather than just asking because they're aware you felt that whatever they did was harmful. If this is your apology language, you want the other person to respectfully give you time to consider and decide for yourself whether or not you want to forgive them.

If you still need some guidance, there's an online quiz you can take to learn more about your apology language.

How we give and receive apologies isn't often discussed compared to the love languages, but all the same, still very important. You could be telling another person, "I'm sorry," a million times but, if it's not what they want to hear, then it won't be effective. Most importantly, apology languages involve a lot of emotional experience and maturity. Learn how to hold yourself and others accountable for what may be harmful. At the same time, take the time to understand yourself when you're hurt. What do you want to hear?

Nevertheless, I'd also like to point out the importance of recognizing that sometimes, you don't owe someone an apology. If someone plays the victim card with you, don't feel the need to apologize for something you don't regret doing.

There's so much to learn about the languages of apology. Like the love languages, apology languages should also meet both sides in the middle. If someone is used to apologizing through actual words but tries to show their apology through actions for you, be observant and learn from that. It doesn't mean they aren't apologetic just because they don't apologize in the way you like it. Moral of the story, don't expect everyone to accommodate your apology language without also making the effort to understand theirs.