July 11, 2019

Part 1 – Apology Language: It’s Different from Forgiveness


Forgiveness and apology are terms that have been around for a while. They are generally understood, but how does one really and effectively apologize to a partner? Have you ever felt like conflict isn’t getting resolved because you’ve not gotten an apology, or you have given an apology, but the other person doesn’t accept it? Well, you are not alone! This post will hopefully give you more clarity on what forgiveness and apology languages are, and the impact they can have on your relationships.

5 Types of Apology Languages

Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Jennifer Thomas look at the importance of forgiveness in communication strategies for couples in their book When Sorry Isn’t Enough (2013). Throughout the book they discuss five different apology languages that humans have.

The five types of apology languages listed by Dr. Chapman and Dr. Thomas are:

1. Expressing Regret: This means hearing someone say the words, “I’m sorry.” To be able to truly forgive someone we need to hear that they regret what they have done. 

2. Accepting Responsibility: Many people need to hear the admission of responsibility for what you have done. It is important for some people to hear that you accept responsibility for the hurt you’ve caused them.

3. Making Restitution: Sometimes we need people to make it right even though they hurt us. This usually means reassuring us that we are still loved.

4. Genuinely Repenting: For some people, we need to hear that you are genuinely not going to hurt them in the same way again. They need to hear that you are going to try not to make the same mistake twice.

5. Requesting Forgiveness: This can be the hardest to do for the asker, but some people need to hear you ask for forgiveness when you are apologizing for hurting them. 

Dr. Chapman and Dr. Thomas stress the importance of knowing what your own apology language is, as well as knowing what your partners’ apology language is. For example, you might think you are apologizing to your partner, but they may not hear your apology if they have a different apology language. This dissonance can end up putting a kink in your relationship over time if you both don’t come to a common ground when it comes to apologies

The Difference Between Forgiveness and Apology

One of the first things that they tackle is the difference between forgiveness and apology. Forgiveness can’t be accomplished without an apology. This is important when it comes to communication breakdowns in couples. One person may feel wronged and expect an apology, but doesn’t get one, so the tension rises. Dr. Chapman says, “Love often means saying you’re sorry- over and over again. Real love will be marked by apologies by the offender and forgiveness by the offended”. The great news is that Dr. Chapman and Dr. Thomas believe that the art of the apology can be learned to strengthen one’s relationships. Over the next few weeks I will go into more depth about each apology language, so we can all learn more about ourselves and how we hear apologies.

If you feel like this concept of apology and forgiveness resonates with you and your current relationships, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our therapists here at Optimum Joy. Being in a relationship where both sides feel heard is hard work, but it can transform how you interact with different people in your life. Whether you are ready to make a change towards a healthier relationship where both people are heard, or if you are just interested in learning what your own apology language is and what that means for you, give us a call; we would love to work with you.

Written by therapist Alex Parlette

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