Apology languages

“I’m sorry…..But….”

This drives me CRAZY. My ex-husband used to do it all the time. Apologies seemed meaningless and insincere. There was always a reason, an excuse for shitty behaviour; usually it was me. “I’m sorry. But…you know how to wind me up.” “I’m sorry. But…I had a bad day at work.”

“That but wipes out the apology,” I told him.

“No it doesn’t, it’s an explanation.” he’d reply.

So it would continue. 

I thought it was mainly because he was just a dick. He thought he needed to get his point across otherwise I’d never know why he was feeling the way he was. Obviously our communication needed an immense amount of work, and we never really realised that these things could actually be improved. Just took it as that’s how it was; that’s how we both were.

It was actually only recently, some 8 years after we separated, that I became aware of the concept of apology languages by the same people behind the 5 love languages (that’s another post).

The premise is (based on lots of research) that there are different languages of apology, and we all generally receive the most sincere one when our primary apology language is spoken. So like with the love languages, it’s all about understanding the primary apology language of the people around you and then speaking it.

There’s 5 of them (do the quiz to understand your own, usually there’s one or two that will come out on top):

  • expressing regret
  • accepting responsibility
  • making restitution
  • genuinely repenting
  • requesting forgiveness

Expressing regret – this zeroes in on emotional hurt. It’s an admission of guilt and shame for causing pain to another person; a simple “I’m sorry” is all it’ll take. No excuses or attempt to deflect blame, expressing regret takes ownership of the wrong.

Accepting responsibility – this is saying “I am/was wrong”. Quite often there is a reason for bad behaviour, but that doesn’t change the fact that what was done was wrong or hurtful to another person. Accepting responsibility is admitting that you make mistakes, being vulnerable and overcoming your own ego.

Making restitution – this is about reassuring the person they are loved and showing efforts to make amends. Making restitution ties in with the love languages as the be most sincere it should align with the person’s main love language (e.g. giving a bouquet of flowers for someone who has a primary love language of receiving gifts).

Genuinely repenting – this is the desire to modify behaviour to avoid the situation in the future. Genuinely repenting gives the assurance that you’ll try not to make the same mistake again, and to show a plan of how to achieve that.

Requesting forgiveness – this is to physically ask for forgiveness, which is really asking that person to still love them. It assures the person you want to see the relationship fully restored and proves you’re sincerely sorry for what you’ve done. Requesting forgiveness is difficult because it comes with the fear of rejection and the fear of failure.

Just because you might have one or two main apology languages it doesn’t mean you should dismiss the other ones as insignificant, after all they’re likely to be someone else’s. The main thing is to try to understand them for both yourself and loved ones, to be able to communicate in the way that is most genuine when needed.

Not surprising, accepting responsibility and expressing regret came out equal top for me. Just admit you’re wrong and that you’re sorry.

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