Have you ever had someone apologize to you but you questioned their sincerity? Have you ever asked yourself ‘why?’ It’s probably because they did not speak your apology language. They said, “I’m sorry.” But what you wanted to hear was, “I was wrong.” They said, “Will you forgive me?” But what you wanted to hear was, “What can I do to make this right?” After three years of surveys, we have concluded that there are five basic elements to an apology. We have titled them the five languages of apology. Each person has a primary apology language, and one of the five speaks more deeply to them emotionally than the other four. The danger is that if you don’t speak their language, they may consider your apology insincere.
1. Expressing Regret: Say, “I’m sorry. I feel badly about what I did.” Show that you understand how your actions affected them. Expressing an understanding of the pain caused by your offense. Be specific. Remove the emotional barrier in your relationship by conveying your deep sorrow about your actions.
2. Accepting Responsibility: Say, “I was wrong.” “It was my fault.” Resist the temptation to blame others, excuse your actions, or deny responsibility for the offense. If you can fully shoulder the responsibility for the offense, gaining forgiveness will be much easier.
3. Making Restitution: Ask, “What can I do to make it right?” Offer to restore the other person to their prior status by reclaiming their reputation, providing resources for restoration, or taking steps to rebuild their trust.
4. Genuinely Repenting: Make this commitment: “I’ll try not to do that again.” Engage in problem-solving to prevent a similar offense from occurring in the future. Follow up with a credible action plan.
5. Requesting Forgiveness: Ask, “Will you please forgive me?” Realize that some people won’t believe you are really trying to make things right until you humbly ask for their forgiveness. In their mind, it is your willingness to give up your control and put the future of the relationship in their hands that conveys your sincerity.
If you don’t know what others are looking for you to do, you will feel frustrated and won’t know how to proceed. The problem is not your sincere affection or remorse; it’s that you may not be speaking their language. Arm yourself with these practical tips. Speaking the right language to your partner, friends, and co-workers can boost all these vital relationships.