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The Five Languages of Apology

In their new bestselling novel, “When Sorry Isn't Enough,” authors Gary Chapman, and Jennifer Thomas, Ph.D. talk about the importance of apologizing in a way that translates to the person we hurt. 

As humans, we make mistakes, and these mistakes often hurt people we care for whether intentionally or unintentionally. Everyone reacts differently to being hurt and attempts to rectify the situation— these varied responses are a result of many factors that are hard to quantify.  Sometimes reflection of their upbringing, and how they were taught to show and manage their emotions.  What we can do is understand that there are differ by languages of apologies and understand which ones resonate with you and your partner. 

Type 1: Expressing Regret

** Most apologies involve saying the words “I’m sorry.” However, to truly be forgiven, those words aren’t always enough.  Research shows that without the apologizer conveying  a sense of remorse, or regret for their actions - the words “I’m sorry” hold less meaning to the offended party. 

Type 2: Accepting Responsibility 

**We all have reasons we mess up.  Maybe things aren’t going well at work or we got frustrated and said something we didn’t mean in the heat of the moment.  

However, the truth is that we hurt someone and taking responsibility goes far.  We may feel defensive or want to explain ourselves, but by using phrases like “it was wrong to...” or “that was my fault” it signifies that we are owning it and are more likely to be forgiven.  

Type 3: Making Restitution 

** Sometimes a good old fashioned apology isn’t enough. In order to return the relationship to its normal state after a hurtful setback, it may be necessary to make declarative statements and actions to reassure the person you hurt that you love them and are committed to making them happy.  Perhaps this is in the form of planning a special date night or bringing home flowers but the point is that you are taking steps to show that not only are you sorry, but that you care.   Please note, this is in addition to apologizing and not instead of! 

Type 4:  Genuinely Repenting 

**Repentance means to “turn around” or “change one’s mind.”Once you hurt someone, the best way to ensure true forgiveness is not to repeat the same actions that got you in the dog house in the first place! But that takes time and bad habits are hard to break. Making a plan and being vocal about your desire to change is an excellent first step. 

Type 5:  Requesting Forgiveness 

**Actually asking for forgiveness isn’t easy.  It makes the person asking vulnerable to rejection, means they fully own their culpability and takes away any control over the  outcome. Likewise, for the person giving the forgiveness, it requires them to relinquish their sense of justice and ideally, truly forgive.  

Regardless of the difficulty and the discomfort it may bring, the need to meet in the middle and for both parties to “lose ground” makes it a truly therapeutic way to reaffirm belief and commitment to the relationship and promote healing.  

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