With public apologies at an all-time high, we could all use a refresher on the art of apologizing.
Everyone messes up. It’s inevitable.
Sometimes you back your mom’s car into a mailbox. Other times, you say something insensitive to a loved one. Or perhaps you make a bigger mistake that causes a large fracture in a relationship.
To be human is to make mistakes. But how do we come back from these errors?
Usually, it starts with an apology.
As children, we’re told to say sorry when we’ve done something wrong, but it’s not always that simple. We see this in the often eye-roll-inducing public apology.
Public apologies are at an all-time high as fans, consumers, and communities begin to ask for more accountability.
If you have trouble with apologizing, thankfully, those wiser than us have created tools to aid in this pursuit.
Whether you’re addressing big relationship fractures or smaller spats, apology languages can help you say sorry the right way — and they’ll teach you more about yourself, as well as those around you.
Apology languages are a useful aid in avoiding the dreaded “I’m sorry you feel that way” apology. Created by Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the famed “The 5 Love Languages,” apology languages are a communication tool we can use to mend relationship fractures.
After all, communication isn’t always easy for everyone. We’ve all been on the giving and receiving end of wrongdoing. How can we more smoothly facilitate forgiveness?
The goal is to not just say you’re sorry. The goal is to reassure that you mean it.
“This was my fault. Here’s why.”
Accepting responsibility is more than saying “I’m sorry.” It’s having the wherewithal to set aside your pride and admit that you were wrong.
Here, you take the blame. Accepting responsibility requires that you acknowledge where you went wrong or caused harm.
“Will you forgive me for saying those awful things about you?”
Requesting forgiveness means that you put the power back in the other person’s hands. You give them the option to forgive you, and likely, that’s what they need.
This takes humility. While you’re not exactly getting on your knees and begging, you do have to swallow your ego for this one.
“I understand how I’ve hurt you, and I’m ashamed about it.”
Expressing regret shows that you understand what you’ve done is wrong. It’s different than accepting responsibility because the important thing here is displaying shame.
Regretting what you’ve done shows that there’s a true emotional impact on you. Sometimes people need to see that pain reflected in order to feel like a genuine apology has been made.
“I’m sorry I’m late! Dinner is on me since you had to wait so long.”
Making restitution is a display showing that you’re attempting to restore trust. The idea is to exchange goods, labor, or money in exchange for the mistake that was made. When you do this, you physically compensate for your error.
Often, making restitution is sensible in the case of careless behavior that leads to broken items or the loss of time.
“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.”
There’s a saying that goes “the best apology is changed behavior.” That’s where this apology language comes in.
In a way, it’s a combination of the previous four languages. Genuinely repenting means that you have to show you’ve learned from your mistake.
To genuinely repent, you must apologize sincerely, ask how you can earn forgiveness, and follow through with that change. You have to prove yourself with this one, and it’s a significant undertaking.
All of these make for an excellent atonement, especially when you’ve done someone dirty.
Understanding your loved one’s apology language can help mend a relationship fracture, so it’s important to open the dialogue of understanding early in the relationship.
There is a quiz on Chapman’s website that will help you determine your primary apology language.
Still, the languages operate more so on a gradient. Different apology languages are appropriate for different situations.
Past the quiz, you can just ask yourself what you want from someone in an apology. If you find that you’re leaning toward certain languages more than others, you know what to ask for in the future.
No matter what, an apology should be genuine. People just want to feel heard. They want their hurt addressed. They want to feel like it’s real.
If you’re apologizing just to please someone, or to get the heat off your back, you’re inevitably going to make the same mistakes over and over again. Then you’ll find yourself apologizing over and over, potentially running relationships into the ground with endless conflict. Nobody wants that.
Apology languages, at the heart of it, help you understand your loved ones better. They also help you understand yourself better.
When you understand what the people around you need, it’s a lot easier to mend relationship fractures.