Which Of The 5 Apology Languages Do You Speak?

man putting his hands on woman's shoulders from behind

This article originally appeared on iMOM.com and reflects their mission and beliefs.

“I did apologize!” I yelled. “When?” my mother retorted. With a sprinkle of condescension, I clarified, “Um… when I said, I’m sorry for being short with you.” She gave me a look that said, “Oh, please.” Clearly, that apology didn’t count.

If you’ve ever felt like you offered an apology but the other person wasn’t satisfied, it’s possible you speak different apology languages. Just as we all give and receive love differently, we give and receive apologies differently, too. There are actually five kinds according to Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas in their book The 5 Apology Languages. You might apologize with a combination of the five, but you probably gravitate toward one in particular. Find out which one so you can give and receive apologies in ways that actually work.

Expressing Regret

Once, after ordering invitations through an online printer, I was given a delivery date, which came and went. When I finally got a response from customer service, it simply said, “They were shipped today.” That’s it. No apology. Had they said, “We’re sorry for the delay and any inconvenience it has caused you,” it would’ve redeemed the company and kept me from leaving a negative review.

If there’s no regret, an apology can feel incomplete. When you express regret properly, you focus on your behavior, the pain you caused, and how the two are connected.

Accepting Responsibility

My husband and I got into a pretty big fight one night. I felt like he talked down to me and he thought I was too sharp with him. He wanted me to admit I was wrong and vice versa. Neither of us was willing to accept responsibility. As you can imagine, the issue took a while to resolve.

In a lot of marriages or former marriages, you’ll hear the wife say, “He never admits he’s wrong.” If your apology language is accepting responsibility, the words “I messed up” hold more weight than anything else.

Making Restitution

My son once found one of his (many) drawings in the trash and got really upset. I felt horrible and said, “I am so sorry. I didn’t know it meant so much. What can I do to make it up to you?”

For some people, the apology language of making restitution feels like the only correct way to apologize. The heart of restitution is love, so to make restitution effectively, you should use the person’s love language. If it’s physical touch, offer a hug. Words of affirmation? Say, “I’m sorry for what I did. You’re amazing and deserve to be treated better.”

Planned Change

In a volunteer group I was part of, one of the men had an affair with one of the women on our team. He confessed and promised he’d change. They uprooted their family, established new boundaries, and after a lot of work to rebuild, their marriage is happy and healthy today.

If planned change is your apology language, you might find yourself saying, “If you were really sorry, you would do something to change!”

Requesting Forgiveness

When two friends had a falling out over some gossip and I was stuck in the middle, I got to witness this kind of apology language in action. The gossiper said, “I know what I did was wrong and your relationship is important to me. Can you forgive me so we can still be friends?”

I was shocked to read in the book that one in five people who were asked what they expect in an apology answered, “I expect him/her to ask for my forgiveness.” That feels trivial to me, but it’s actually pretty important. Requesting forgiveness shows that you want to see the relationship fully restored. But to do it properly, the requester has to be patient. He or she can’t request forgiveness and then get upset when the person needs a little time.

Discovering Which Apology Language You Speak

One quick way to pinpoint your primary apology language is to think about which of the five is necessary to make an apology feel complete to you. Maybe as you read the description of “making restitution,” you thought, “Of course, they need to try to make things better!” You can also take this quiz on Gary Chapman’s website.

Which of the five apology languages do you speak? Which is the least significant to you?

This article originally appeared on iMOM.com and reflects their mission and beliefs.

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