Jennifer Thomas is a bestselling author, psychologist, speaker, consultant & apology critic

How I First Learned What to Say… When Sorry Isn’t Enough


 

I’m often asked how I came up with the new concepts in “When Sorry Isn’t Enough”. I co-authored this book with Gary Chapman and it was released in May 2013. Here is an interview in which I answered that question:

How did the idea of an apology language first come to your mind?
During my six years of graduate training in clinical psychology at the University of Maryland, I made note cards about lessons I learned that might help my future clients. On these cards, I listed may Bible verses and quotes about conflict, forgiveness, grief, marriage, parenting, etc. Ten years ago, I made a note card that listed several different parts of an apology. At that time, I only had three parts of an apology, but I added to the list over the years and finally arrived at our five parts of an apology.

Several years ago, I made a mistake that led to an argument with my husband. Ironically, this incident happened the evening before we were to teach about communication and forgiveness to a pre-marital class at our church. As he and I worked through our own argument, I offered an apology to him that failed to hit the mark. I was thinking to myself, “This is not good. We are barely speaking and yet we are supposed to teach together tomorrow.” Normally, I might have been miffed by his response, but this time my curiosity took over and so I asked him what he would like to hear in my apology. While I had been saying, “I’m sorry,” he needed to hear me say “I was wrong.” I had made a mistake and I knewwas in the wrong, so I went ahead and said it to my husband. I was amazed by how quickly this apology worked. My husband felt better and the emotional tension between the two of us slipped away.

I made a mental note to include my husband’s favorite words in future apologies I would give to him. I wondered if our experience might help other people who are in the “dog house” and don’t know how to get out of there.

How did you connect your ideas with Dr. Chapman’s love languages?
The couples in our pre-marital class were already familiar with The Five Love Languages. I concluded the class by linking the two concepts together. I said, “Just as you have learned that you should show love in a language that really speaks to your fiancée, you should also speak apologies that contain the words he or she is waiting to hear.”

I had met Gary Chapman locally through my work as a psychologist in private practice in North Carolina. I was curious about his thoughts on apologies. Six months later, I made an appointment to talk over these ideas with him. Dr. Chapman was very encouraging and we ended up writing a book together.

Here is a simple exercise from When Sorry Isn’t Enough for couples, friends, and teams.

Talk over these two questions in order to cool down heated arguments:

  1. When you hear a great apology, what is included?
  2. When you hear a lame apology, what is missing?

Also, you can also click on my website’s “free resources” tab to take the apology language and love language assessments for free.

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