Relationships: 5 Apology Languages/Styles

Sorry - Apology Language
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Love language is a theory about how we give and receive love that was largely advanced by Gary Chapman in which he identified five different ways people give and receive love. Knowing your and your partner’s love language strengthens the relationship because then you demonstrate love to each other effectively and understand each other better. Not as well-known though equally important are the ways different people apologize to their partners and desire to receive apologies. This is one’s apology language.

Love languages of different groups

Words of affirmation: For these people words are critical. This group loves receiving unsolicited compliments, loves pet names and things like sweet messages.

Acts of service: For these people love looks like being cared for. Loving them is doing things for them like doing chores and other tasks that make life easier for them.

Receiving gifts: For these people, love is expressed through giving and receiving gifts. It’s not about the cash value of the gift as much as the thoughtfulness behind it. They love receiving gifts from their partners because it shows them their partner is paying attention.

Quality time: For this group, love is expressed through time spent with their partner whether at home or on dates. Time spent together shows them their partner cares about them and is interested in what they think and how they feel. They are hurt when their partners don’t pay attention to them and treat them like they are special.

Physical touch: For this group, love is given and received through touch. It’s not just about sex as much as it is about touching and being touched, caressed, and massaged. Love is demonstrated through holding hands, hugs, kisses playing with and ruffling their hair, and more.

Apology languages

Everyone messes up. It’s inevitable. Sometimes it’s a huge faux pas that risks fracturing the relationship and other times it’s smaller spats and mistakes. Things happen and apologies have to be made which is not easy. Different people lean more strongly towards one apology language over another and it’s possible to have more than one. Here are the different ways different people apologize and prefer to receive apologies.

1. Expressing regret

For this group apologizing is an admission of guilt and shame for causing pain to their counterpart. What they’re listening for when someone is apologizing is simply, I’m sorry. Another example is, “I feel ashamed for how I hurt you”. Admission of guilt and culpability is difficult for many people because pride can get in the way.

It’s a powerful apology language because it gets right to the point. The person takes ownership of the blame without attempting to deflect blame or offer excuses. For this reason, it is seen and understood to be a sincere apology coming straight from the heart.

This may be your apology language if:

  • You want someone to acknowledge the hurt they caused
  • You want someone to genuinely express that they regret their actions
  • You want to feel validated in your emotions

2. Accepting responsibility

For this group, apologizing revolves around accepting responsibility for what they have done. It is exemplified in an apology like, “I was wrong for doing that to you” or “I’m sorry I was mean, it was stupid and it was my fault.”

Accepting responsibility can and often goes hand in hand with expressing regret. For people who lean towards this apology language, offering explanations along with the apology might actually backfire and make the person feel as if no apology was offered at all. This group needs you to earnestly admit their wrongdoing and why what they did was wrong.

This may be your apology language if:

  • You want someone to take ownership of the hurt they have caused.
  • You want someone to clearly state what they did wrong, to prove they can learn from the mistake.
  • You don’t want to hear excuses.

3. Making restitution

This involves finding a way to pay for what you have done. It involves finding a way to correct the situation, finding a way to make it up to the wounded party. If something is lost, broken, or damaged, the apologizer offers to replace the item or pay for the inconvenience.

For this group, flowers as an apology on their own will not work. In the same way wrong acts demand justice, they require concrete actions to remedy the situation to accompany the apology. You need to go beyond saying “I’m sorry” to making amends. This is how they gauge the sincerity of the apology. Knowing your partner’s apology language is key.

This may be your apology language if:

4. Genuinely repenting

Repentance is about making a commitment not to make the same mistake again. This apology language requires a change of behaviour. This group requires you to make plans for change and offer no excuses. There should be a sincere drive to do better. This group will doubt your sincerity if it is not accompanied by their partner’s desire to modify their behaviour. An example would be, “I am so sorry that I’ve harmed you, and I’m going to take these steps to make sure I don’t make this mistake again

This may be your apology language if:

5. Requesting forgiveness

This apology language puts the power back in the wounded person’s hands. You give them the option to forgive you and likely that’s what they need. It is exemplified in an apology like, “Will you forgive me for saying those awful things about you?” Another example is, “I’m so sorry for letting you down. Can you find it in your heart to forgive me?

This may be your apology language if:

  • You’re not quite ready for reconciliation yet
  • You need more from the apology and want the space to ask for it
  • You need to know the person apologizing is willing to wait until you’re ready

Here’s hoping this helped you figure out your apology language and that of your partner and hopefully offer and receive meaningful, heartfelt apologies. These are not the only ways to express contrition and sincerity when apologizing.

For more on forgiveness, check out this piece: Key things to remember if you are struggling with forgiveness.

Relationships: A Guide To Learning Your Partner’s Love Language

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