The Five Love Languages on Oprah’s Lifeclass

When Sorry Isn’t Enough. the five love languages

Welcome to my blog. I’m a psychologist and the co-author (with Gary Chapman) of When Sorry Isn’t Enough. I share tips about What to Say When challenging conversations arise and I welcome your thoughts and questions. I’ll check back in frequently to chime in on the conversations here.

One year ago this week, I had the privilege of sitting in on the taping of an Oprah Lifeclass in Chicago. Her featured guest was my friend and co-author, Gary Chapman. Oprah Winfrey said that she had decided to feature the Five Love Languages because her stylist and others kept telling her how much the book has meant to them. Here is a clip from that taping:

Here are some ways to use the five love languages to enrich all types of relationships. These are based on Gary Chapman’s “Practically Speaking” articles:

Words Of Affirmation

  • Buy a pack of sticky notes. Leave at least one encouraging note a day where your loved one will notice. Comment on something you appreciate about them, something they did, or in relation to who they are. The more specific the message the better. (Love Languages Relationship: Marriage, Family)
  • Think about a goal, dream, or accomplishment that your loved one may be putting off because they feel inadequate. Use your affirming words to en-courage them (instill courage). Tell them you think they can do it; accomplish it; be it. These simple words could boost their confidence and help them reach their potential. (Love Languages Relationship: Marriage, Family)
Harpo Studios, headquarters of talk show host ...
Harpo Studios, headquarters of talk show host Oprah Winfrey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Acts Of Service

  • The next time you notice your loved one doing a particular chore or task, simply ask them what can you do to help. Even if they say no or not right now, the offer alone will mean the world. (Love Languages Relationship: Marriage, Family, Friend)
  • Take notice of some things that may be small irritations to your spouse. Maybe it’s oiling a squeaky door, taking out the trash, cleaning a stain off the carpet or couch, tightening a loose screw, organizing a stack of papers, making the bed, or cleaning out a junk drawer. Whatever it is, take the initiative. Acts of Service are intentional. (Love Languages Relationship: Marriage)

Receiving Gifts

  • Think of the most meaningful songs shared between you and your loved one. Search for the music videos of these songs and then add them to a public playlist you create on your YouTube account. Send an email or card containing the link inviting them to watch. Let them know you were thinking about them. The thoughtfulness—not dollar amount—will make this gift super special. (Love Languages Relationship: Marriage, Couple)
  • Is there something meaningful that you possess—jewelry, trinket, watch, book, etc… Consider passing it along to your child if they are at a responsible age. Don’t just give it to them—take some time to share why it is significant to you and why you want them to have it. (Love Languages Relationship: Parent to Child)

the five love languages and when sorry isn't enoughQuality Time

  • Plan a “Picasso Pizza Party” with your family. Get some fun and unique toppings. Instruct everyone to use the crust as a canvas and ask them to design a portrait of someone in the house using the toppings. After the pizzas are cooked, take pictures of them and guess who each pizza represents. Later, display photos as art and a reminder of this special time spent together. (Love Languages Relationship: Family)
  • Is there a local art museum in your city or town? If so, plan a visit with your loved one. Ask questions about how they feel and what they notice about the various works of art. Let their answers guide your conversation. (Love Languages Relationship: Marriage, Couple, Family, Parent to Child)

Physical Touch

  • Let your child know that you notice they are growing up. Ask them to measure their hands against yours—palms to palms—to see if they are catching up with you yet. (Love Languages Relationship: Parent to Child)
  • Let your next hug linger just a little longer with your loved one. Add a light back rub or back scratch to help his/her love tank overflow. (Love Languages Relationship: Spouse, Couple, Parent to Child)

To find out what your love language is, take the love languages test on my free resources page.

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When ‘Sorry’ Isn’t Enough

Welcome to my blog. I’m a psychologist and the co-author (with Gary Chapman) of When Sorry Isn’t Enough. I share tips about What to Say When challenging conversations arise and I welcome your thoughts and questions. I’ll check back in frequently to chime in on the conversations here.

Are there friends or family members whom you rarely hear apologize? Their apologies may be long overdue. Here is the problem: we have a natural tendency to gloss over what we have done wrong. Perhaps we hope that if we don’t say how self-centered or thoughtless we have been, others won’t take notice and scold us.  Ironically, the opposite is true. Others are hesitant to forgive us if we really don’t seem to “get it”. We must show that we are sincerely sorry.  If we don’t seem to recognize all of the pain that we have caused, aren’t we likely to just hurt them again?

What do you need to know in order to apologize well? As we have talked about our own successes and failures in apologizing, my husband and I have realized that we have different “apology languages.”  Those who are familiar with the work of Dr. Gary Chapman in The Five Love Languages will recognize this concept of “languages.”  Dr. Chapman’s premise is that many relationship problems stem from miscommunication. Specifically, he recommends that in order to be heard by others, we need to speak not in our natural language, but in the language of the listener.

How do apology languages work?  Have you ever tried to apologize, only to be rebuffed? It may be that you were offering a partial apology in a “language” that was foreign to your listener.

Recently, I was the featured blogger for a great charity, Inheritance of

Click here to read more of what I shared with them about apology languages. I’m featuring Inheritance of Hope today because I’ve had the privilege of serving as a counselor with them on numerous trips to Disneyworld.

Here’s a bit of the charity’s history: After being diagnosed with a rare terminal illness in 2003, Kristen Milligan searched for children’s literature to help her children — Ashlea (then four years old), Luke (two), and Rebecca (seven months).  Unable to find anything that met their needs, she decided to write her own book.  The result was A Train’s Rust, A Toy Maker’s Love, the story of a train family whose mother begins to rust, prompting questions of the toy maker about what will happen next.

Kristen endured her disease for nearly ten years, including six surgeries, twenty-two months of chemotherapy, two rounds of radiation, and two more books.  She died on October 26, 2012. Kristen and her husband, Deric, expanded the concept in May 2007 by founding Inheritance of Hope, a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity with the vision that “Every Family Deserves a Legacy.”® The organization began selling Kristen’s books, and in August 2008 Inheritance of Hope hosted its first all-expenses-paid Legacy Retreat® in New York.

Gary Chapman, Ph.D.
Author of The Five Love Languages
“Inheritance of Hope provides expert love and care for families battling a parent’s life-threatening illness.”

Moving Forward: Inheritance of Hope continues to expand its offerings to young families facing the life-threatening illness of a parent.

Click here to watch a brief, inspirational video by the charity’s late founder, Kristin.

Talk About It:

Do you know someone who has waited until it’s too late to work out a dispute?

Who do you really cherish and plan to reach out to today?

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Resolve to Keep Your Marriage on Track in the New Year

Welcome to my blog. I’m a psychologist and the co-author (with Gary Chapman) of When Sorry Isn’t Enough. I share tips about What to Say When challenging conversations arise and I welcome your thoughts and questions. I’ll check back in frequently to chime in on the conversations here.

What does it take to have happy, healthy relationships? Do you treat your family members as well as you treat others in your life?


Maddie is a mother of two grown daughters and one step-son. She and Nathan have been married for 10 years. They have little joy in their marriage but they are committed to staying together for the long haul.

Maddie asked me for marriage tips because they argue nearly every day and they have little closeness. I gave her these 4 pieces of advice:

  • My recipe for success at home is to reign in criticism. Think carefully before you speak.
  • Arguing daily is like cutting into the tree of your marriage with a hatchet. Don’t fall into this bad habit.
  • Replace caustic comments with compliments. Everyone appreciates praise.
  • Treat your spouse and other family members with the same kindness and respect you give to your co-workers.

John, a participant at one of my seminars asked me what to say to breathe life into his dying marriage. This was no small request! During a break, we talked about how he could turn over a new leaf with his wife. Later, he shared these thoughts that he went home and bravely offered to his wife:

  • I am sorry that I have been going all the time, pushing, neglecting, not listening, not respecting, not showing interest, not supporting your life. I am sorry that I have tried to make us look good instead of being good.
  • I was wrong and I accept the responsibility of working towards a solution. I have created hurts, emotional strains, anxiety on us and stress in many areas.
  • I believe that time will help me to make things right for you. I know there are years of hurts I’ve created.
  • Repentance is a change of mind that produces a change of direction.  If you will accept my apology, I am more than willing to work on changing.  I request your forgiveness.

John reported back that his wife was thunderstruck by what he shared. She had never heard him apologize without adding the word “but.” They talked late into the night about changes they could make to rebuild their trust.

When you think about your closest relationships, do you feel like you are on the right track? Do you speak with the understanding that angry words from you could cause permanent scars? Would an apology from you go a long way towards making peace? If so, don’t delay. Begin the new year with some reflection on your most important relationships. Write a letter of apology or appreciation to your life partner. Remember it’s the quality of our relationships that determines our satisfaction with life.

Your Turn:

What is the best marriage advice you have ever given or received?

How do you keep your closest relationships on track?


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Two Simple Things Your Relationships Need For Survival

Welcome to my blog. I’m a psychologist and the co-author (with Gary Chapman) of When Sorry Isn’t Enough. I share tips about What to Say When challenging conversations arise and I welcome your thoughts and questions. I’ll check back in frequently to chime in on the conversations here.

“Good relationships are four parts liking each other and seven parts forgiveness.” Quote by Jennifer Thomas

Gary Chapman is known as “The Love Language Man.” His New York Times book, The Five Love Languages, selling over 9 million copies, has become a classic. To have blissful relationships, showing love is a must.  To have happy friends and co-workers, showing appreciation is essential. Recently, Dr. Chapman has embraced a second necessary ingredient for healthy relationships: dealing with offenses through apologies and forgiveness.  In May, Gary Chapman and I released When Sorry Isn’t Enough, which tells readers how to make things right with anyone. We believe that these two books fit together like a hand in a glove. Both sets of tools are needed to make relationships work.

Today, most engaged couples know that they need to learn each others’ love languages.  Yet they will not be fully equipped for their journey without the matching insight: their languages of apology.  Whether in love relationships, friendships, or the workplace, love languages and apology languages are practical tools for cementing your relationships.

Since our book on apologies was released, we’ve gotten very positive feedback. One person who emailed me gave me permission to share her thoughts with you:


Do you remember me telling you that I taught on apologies from your book at adult Sunday school at my church?  Well, I had an opportunity yesterday to put your techniques to work.  Someone at church was deeply offended about something that was partially my doing.  I talked with the person one-on-one, and did my best to incorporate all five apology languages.  Whether this person will forgive, I cannot say.  But I was soooooo glad to have had the information from your book to fall upon. I thought you might want to know,

(From my friend)

Also, I received this email from an astute man:

Thanks again for your time at Kiwanis last Thurs.  Really great insights for managing relationships.  My wife and I have had significant arguments about whether or not the other apologized.  I haven’t apologized unless I make it very clear that I was wrong, and she hasn’t apologized unless she makes it clear to me that the future will be different.  Appreciating our different attitudes at least gives us the opportunity (whether or not we take it is another story) to apologize to the other in language they understand and appreciate.

Best wishes,

(From an attendee at one of my seminars)

Are you in a pickle with someone today? Here is a “Cliff Notes” version of both concepts for you to use. Relationships at home and at work can be very challenging. Don’t give up. Use these practical ideas for getting out of any jam with others.

Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages:

  1. Gifts- For some people, what makes them feel most loved is to receive a gift.
  2. Acts of service- Remember that for some people, actions speak louder than words.
  3. Words of affirmation- Say, write, or text encouraging words to other people.
  4. Quality time- This language is all about giving the other person your undivided attention.
  5. Physical touch- To this person, nothing speaks more deeply than appropriate touch.

NEW! Our 5 Languages of Apology:

  1. Express regret- Say “I’m sorry for the hurt I’ve caused.”
  2. Accept responsibility- Say “I was wrong.”
  3. Make restitution- Ask, “What can I do to make things right?
  4. Genuinely repent- State how you will change so you will not do it again.
  5. Request forgiveness- Ask, “Will you please forgive me?”

Your turn:

Which do you think needs to come first: Love languages or apology languages?

In your experience, what part of an apology do too many people omit?


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On Making Things Right With Those You Love

Welcome to my blog. I’m a psychologist and the co-author (with Gary Chapman) of When Sorry Isn’t Enough. I share tips about What to Say When challenging conversations arise and I welcome your thoughts and questions. I’ll check back in frequently to chime in on the conversations here.

Has a friend sent you a critical message? I call those “email bombs” or “text bombs.” That’s not a fun way to start the day. Is your sweetheart giving you the cold shoulder? I can relate to it all.

Ten years ago, my husband and I had an argument. It was a run of the mill spat, but the timing of the argument was rather embarrassing. You see, we were going to lead a seminar for young couples the following day. What was our lecture topic? Conflict resolution. As they say, “timing is everything,” so we had some fresh material for our class.

That day, I was largely at fault and so I said, “I’m sorry” about my careless mistake. My husband is usually pretty easygoing, but he was untouched by my apology. What it lacked in elegance, I thought it made up in simplicity. Not so, in my husband’s mind. “Sorry” was definitely not enough for him that day.

Since J.T. was still irritated with me, we tried to talk it over. I asked him what was wrong and he said it was just that he wished I would apologize. I thought, “What?  I did apologize!” Normally, I might have gotten ornery but on this particular day, my counseling skills kicked in and I became curious.

I replied, “I said I was sorry…. what were you looking for?” Now take a second, please, and imagine what he might have been waiting to hear in my apology….Can you guess what he said? He knew right away what he was waiting to hear: That I was wrong.

Because I knew that I was at fault, I quickly offered a revised apology that included my wrongdoing. The result?  A happy evening in which I was out of the “dog house.”


In writing our new book, When Sorry Isn’t Enough (co-authored by Gary Chapman), we found that my experience is common. Have you ever delivered an apology that was not received? Do you know the pain of being rejected by a loved one?

I’ve been there myself. Once, I was rejected by a close friend who twisted my words and used them against me. I cried off and on for weeks. With time, I moved on but I still missed my former friend and thought of her almost daily. After seven long years, I reached out to my friend once more. I was really surprised when she said she was glad to hear from me. I know that not all stories end this way, but my friend and I enjoyed a sweet reconciliation.

I advise people to not get sloppy. Focus on making things right with those you love. I tell them, “When you know you’ve offended someone, you should act with urgency to repair the problem. Spell out what you have done wrong, how this has “put out” the other person, show concern for them, and explain what will truly be different next time.”

In order to give the most successful apologies, you should ask the people close to you what they most like to hear in an apology. After you learn the apology languages of your friends and family members, your apologies will have focus. These apologies will hit their mark and cool down heated arguments.


It’s Your Turn:

What are your thoughts about apologies?

How do you try to make things right with others?

This post is part of a piece I originally wrote for a blog called (in)courage  that included Gary Chapman and myself among their seven recommended authors for the Fall. We got a great response with 375 comments from readers. To find the comments and my replies about this post, please join our conversation at (in)courage.



What to Say When… Your Co-Worker Wants a Better Apology From You

Scenario:  Francis works in an office in Chicago where she gets along well with her coworkers. But one afternoon a coworker, Diane, told her she was bothered by the fact that Francis “never apologizes.” Francis was at a complete loss but then she remembered an incident in which she had made a mistake on a new brochure that affected Diane. Francis asked Diane if they could sit down and talk for a minute.

What to Say:

Francis: Let’s I circle back to that mistake I made on our brochure a few weeks ago.

Diane: O.K. what?

Francis: I think I took responsibility for my mistake and I said I sorry for the inconvenience. I truly do apologize for my error. I thought you had accepted my apology but now I see that you didn’t since you just said that I never apologize. Was there something else that you needed to hear from me?

Diane: Well, you never asked me to forgive you!

Francis: Well, I want you to forgive me, because I value our relationship. So let me ask you now, “Will you please forgive me?”

Diane: Yes, I will.


Why This Works:

Francis and Diane have different languages of apology. To Diane, people are just giving half apologies until they request her forgiveness. As so often happens, Francis had apologized in her own way, had checked the apology off her list, and moved on. She felt she had given a complete apology but Diane did not consider that to be a sincere apology.

What Doesn’t Work:

If someone tells you that your apology didn’t register for them, keep the conversation going. Francis could have gotten mad, refused to deal with Diane, and gossiped about her to their co-workers. Sadly, that approach just leads to fractured relationships and more hurt feelings on both sides. For teams to be productive, they must keep open lines of communication despite mistakes that inevitably happen.

What to Say or Do Next:

Be alert at work for co-workers who speak a different apology language from you. All of these apology languages are learnable. Realize that it’s OK not to be perfect. When you make a mistake, tell your team that you want to make it right. Don’t expect your co-workers to just accept you as you are. Show that you are willing to make changes to do better the next time.

Try This Activity:

If your mistake was especially big or if you make the same mistake repeatedly, your co-workers might still be holding a grudge. A day or two after you offer your next apology, say to the other person “On a scale of 0-10, how sincere do you feel my apology was the other day?” If the other person says anything less than 10, then you respond “What could I do to bring it up to a 10?” Continue the apology process until you have done everything possible to pave the way for forgiveness.

Share Your Thoughts Here:

What do you think?

What office situations require apologies?

New! Leave a comment here or under any of my posts this month and/or share this post and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon gift card from me.

My Interview with Lynne Ford

Today, I spent a super-enjoyable hour talking about the book I co-authored with Gary Chapman, When Sorry Isn’t Enough with Lynne Ford of WBCL radio. I talked with her about how to give a complete apology, what to do when you want an apology from someone else, how to teach children to apologize and more. I took questions about broken family relationships from several callers.

You can Listen to the interview here.
Also, I see on their website that you can order the CD of my program via snail mail from WBCL for $5 (free shipping is included).


New! Leave a comment here or under any of my posts this month or share this post and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon gift card from me.