In a perfect world, there would be no need for apologies. But because the world is imperfect, we can’t survive without them. In our book, When Sorry Isn’t Enough, Gary Chapman and I say that without apologies, anger builds and pushes us to demand justice. If a company doesn’t make things right, their customers will move on. If you tell your date that you are offended but he or she won’t apologize, you are likely to find someone else to date.
What can apologies do for you? Genuine apologies make things right again. They also open the door to greater trust and loyalty.
What we have discovered in our research is that there are five fundamental aspects of an apology. We call them the five languages of apology. Each of them is important. But for a particular individual, one or two of the languages may show your sincerity more effectively than the others. That is, when you cover their primary language of apology, you make it easier for them to genuinely forgive you. When you fail to speak their language, it makes forgiveness more difficult.
Here is our “Cheat Sheet” For Apologizing:
Apology Language #1 -Expressing Regret: Say, “I am sorry.” List the hurtful effects of your action. Show remorse. It doesn’t count if someone is only sorry that they got caught!
Apology Language #2 – Accepting Responsibility: Say, “I was wrong.” Name your mistake and accept fault. Note that it is easier to say “You are right” than “I am wrong”, but the latter carries more weight.
Apology Language #3 – Restitution- Making Amends: Ask, “How can I make it right?” How are they now? Is any debt owed or repayment due? Say, “I want to make amends to you.”
Apology Language #4 – Repentance: Say, “I’m going to change and here is how I will do it…” Repentance- literally means turning around 180 degrees. Engage in problem-solving. Don’t make excuses. Make a better, specific plan for change.
Apology Language #5 - Requesting Forgiveness: Ask, “Can you find it in your heart to forgive me?” Be patient in seeking forgiveness and reconciliation. The other person may need the gift of time.
What should you do when you are offering apologies to customers or friends and you don’t know their primary language of apology? Try to include all five of them. You are bound to say something that will show your sincerity to them.
What words of apology are music to your ears? Answering these three questions will help you figure out your primary apology language.
1. What Do I Expect the Person to Do or Say? Ask yourself the question, What do I expect the person to say or do that would make it possible for me to genuinely forgive them? You may find that your answer will involve several apology languages.
2. What Hurts Most Deeply about This Situation? This question is especially helpful if the offender hasn’t yet apologized at all or hasn’t apologized to your satisfaction.
3. When I apologize to others, which of the five languages do I think is most important? Maybe two languages seem to be equally important to you; that is, both speak loudly to you about the sincerity of the other person.Then perhaps you are bilingual.
Share Your Thoughts Here:
What do you think?
What do you most want to hear in an apology?
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