The ABC’s of Apologising: The Five Apology Languages

Have you ever apologised to someone, and it felt as though it didn’t land, or perhaps even misinterpreted, resulting in the apology not being accepted? As with most scenarios in life, there is no one size fits all – and the same goes for apologies. Luckily, Dr. Chapman and Jennifer Thomas discussed this in their book, ‘The Five Languages of Apology’. The book provides insight into what apologies are and how each person requires something different to have their needs met in relation to an apology!

The book outlines five types of apologies that can be expressed. They are:

  1. Expressing regret – ‘I am really sorry I hurt you’
  2. Accepting responsibility – ‘I can’t believe I acted so impulsively, it was uncalled for’
  3. Making restitution – ‘What can I do to make it up to you’
  4. Revising the plan – ‘I won’t forget your birthday again, I have now set an annual calendar reminder’
  5. Requesting forgiveness – ‘It was not my intention; would it be possible for you to forgive me?’

Above all, whenever apologising, one fatal flaw is to make excuses. This is by far the easiest way to make the other party feel invalidated, leaving the person to deem the apology as null and void.

At this stage you may be wondering: “Well, that all makes sense and I understand that I need to apologise in the way that the other person resonates, but how do I know what apology language they speak?”

Easy, just use all five! Let’s walk through an example together. If you said something in a way that hurt another person, and you’d like to apologise for it, you could touch on all five languages in a way that still sounds genuine. For example, you might say something along the lines of:

‘Thank you for being honest. You’re right, what I said was uncalled for and I am sorry that I made you feel like your opinion is not valid. Honestly, that was not my intention. Is there anything you need from me now, to make it up to you? Going forward, I will be less impulsive and listen more attentively. Would you be able to forgive me?’

When apologising, we should always remember that it is about the other person. What do they need from me at this stage to ensure they hear my apology? It’s not about manipulating – you should always remain true to yourself – but it is about presenting the apology in such a way that it hits home for them.

Read my blog post about apologising to learn more, and complete the Apology Language quiz if you’re interested to know your own apology language.

Benjamin Franklin Quote | Apologizing