The 5 Love Languages
You may already be familiar with the 5 Love Languages, as developed by Gary Chapman, PhD. By identifying the common ways people build intimacy in relationships, Chapman created five categories or languages people speak in order to express their love:

  • Quality Time
  • Physical Touch
  • Acts of Service
  • Gifts
  • Words of Affirmation

While the 5 Love Languages first developed out of research with romantic partners, the languages themselves transcend relationships of any kind (children, teenagers, etc.). You can take the The Love Language Quiz to learn how you prefer to receive expressions of love from the people closest to you.

Apology Languages

Most recently, Jennifer Thomas, PhD joined Chapman to explore the ways in which we say “I’m sorry.” Chapman’s website offers how effective your apologies are to others. You can also take a quiz that allows you to identify the most effective ways for people to apologize to you. Their work revealed 5 Apology Languages or styles. In each of the five examples below, I will use the same case study to reveal how these different styles look in action:

Alex comes home one evening to find Sam upset. Earlier that day Sam had called Alex to share how their day had been hard. Alex, hearing the stress in Sam’s voice, offers to pick up some items at the store on their way home so Sam won’t have to worry about that on top of their other stressors. Alex leaves work and drives straight home, having forgotten about their offer to go to the store for Sam. Alex apologizes to Sam…

  •  Expressing Regret
    This apology language is all about communicating one’s awareness of the hurt they have caused through their words or actions—or lack thereof. Expressing regret is about understanding and remorse: the person sees how they have hurt you, they validate your feelings of being hurt, and they express sincerely remorse for having hurt you.

 

“I know you were having a rough day, which is why I offered to go, and now I’ve disappointed you and added to your stress. I did not intend to hurt you. I’m sorry.”

 

  • Accepting Responsibility
    There’s no making excuses, pointing fingers, or passing the buck. Communicating an awareness of just how one hurt another is key here. Specifically, this is a style that expresses awareness of specifically how they caused harm, in addition to remorse for having done so.

 

 

“I forgot to go to the store and now you don’t have the items that you need, on top of the hard day you were already having. I was wrong and I am sorry.”

  • Making Restitution
    This apology style includes both words and actions. Not only does one acknowledge the hurt, but they take steps toward fixing the situation—without being prompted by their partner.

 

“I forgot to stop on my way home and I am sorry. Let me make it up to you by going to the store now. What do you need?”

 

  • Genuinely Repenting
    This apology style is based in the adage “Actions speak louder than words.” People who desire the other person to genuinely apologize expect to see some sort of change as a result of the hurting, and their healing—and trust in the relationship—largely depends upon it.

 

 “I’m sorry for forgetting to go to the store and hurting you. In the future I will put a reminder in my phone so I remember.” 

  • Requesting Forgiveness

This apology style places the ability to forgive firmly in the hands of the person who was hurt. While one can offer an apology, only the hurt party can grant forgiveness. This can mean granting space and time to the other person rather than expecting an immediate response to an apology.

“I’m sorry that I forgot to go to the store for you. I didn’t mean to hurt you. Can you forgive me for disappointing you?”

After you learn about your apology style—both giving and receiving—it’s important to share these realizations with your partner, family member, or friend. When we sincerely attempt to repair a harmed relationship, it is most helpful to know what was hurtful and how we can make it right.

Molly J. Scanlon, Ph.D.
Molly J. Scanlon, Ph.D.

Molly J. Scanlon, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Writing and a student in the M.S. Family Therapy Program at Nova Southeastern University. Her research interests include identity construction, experiential learning, and mindfulness. She is a contributing editor to The Couple and Family Clinic Blog.

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