After a disagreement, have you ever apologized to your partner, only to realize that things weren't completely resolved? It's probably because you were speaking a different language – a different apology language, that is.
Many of us are very familiar with The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, written by Dr. Gary Chapman, a popular relationship staple that categorizes the various ways couples love and communicate with each other (which includes words of affirmation, physical touch, gift giving, acts of service, and quality time).
In The Five Languages of Apology (the updated version is called When Sorry Isn't Enough), written by Chapman and Jennifer Thomas, we learn that expressing concern and regret in any relationship is just as important as demonstrating love and affection.
"It's important to learn your apology language, not only for the sake of yourself and having a deeper understanding of what you need," said Kiaundra Jackson, licensed family and marriage therapist and resident therapist on OWN's new hit show, Love Goals. "But it's also imperative to learn your partner's apology language too."
Relationships are all about reciprocity and having both parties work to make sure that their relationship is in a healthy spot, Jackson said. When you learn your partner's apology language, you can cut down on any excess drama that may happen when someone feels misunderstood, unloved or neglected.
What are the Five Apology Languages?
1. Expressing Regret:
The key to this apology language to address the emotional damage that someone has experienced due to a wrongdoing. Expressing regret and remorse is an essential part of any apology – especially when feelings have been hurt. "It's important to apologize when things go wrong," Jackson said. "It puts you in a place where you can comprehend what your partner is saying and can help you understand how to avoid certain situations moving forward."
An example of this apology language is, "I'm sorry I hurt you."
2. Accepting Responsibility:
This apology language requires an admission of responsibility from the person who committed the offense. "I think this is a fundamental way to receive an apology," Jackson said. "It's important for your partner to take responsibility, because it shows a deep level of self-awareness and the work that they've done within themselves."
An example of this apology language is, "I'm sorry I yelled at you earlier. I was wrong."
3. Making Restitution:
Sometimes expressing regret and taking responsibility isn't enough – in some instances, partners might prefer to receive restitution. "For someone whose apology language is making restitution, their partner would have to start with offering some sort of make-up process," Jackson said. The make-up process should directly correlate with your partner's love language – for example, if their love language is acts of service, one way that you could express love and restitution, is to do something kind or mindful for your partner.
An example of this apology language is, "What can I do to make this up to you?"
4. Genuinely Repenting:
Depending on the severity of the transgression, a sincere apology requires that the person verbalizes their commitment to avoiding repeated behavior. Not only does this apology language demand a genuine "I'm sorry", but it also includes a commitment to change. "It's important to say that you're going to change your behavior in a tangible way," Jackson said. "And ultimately, you can't just say it, you have to do it."
True repentance takes an extra step towards change, and an example of this apology language is, "I know what I did was wrong, and I won't do it again."
5. Requesting Forgiveness:
Sometimes, people want to hear their partners ask for forgiveness and while this can be the most difficult element of an apology, for many people, it can also be the most significant. While the wrongdoer is responsible for apologizing, the power of forgiveness ultimately lays in the hands of the offended. Before accepting a partner's apology, however, Jackson recommends taking a moment to process all of the circumstances. "We know that forgiveness is an internal job," she said. "When forgiveness is requested too early and the person hasn't thought about what they need to forgive the other person for and how they're going to make that amendment within themselves, it can turn out to be a less-than-ideal situation."
Now that you're fluent in all of the languages of atonement, which one best fits your style? Click here to find out!
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