What’s your apology language?
Just as there are love languages, there are also different “apology languages” that reflect how we express ourselves when we’re sorry.
Understanding your apology language, and that of your partner’s, can be a positive influence on your relationship and help you both reconcile after conflict.
What’s an apology language?
Conflicts occur in every relationship to some degree, and reconciling with a loved one can be a tricky task.
Simply put, your apology language describes the way you express your regret or try to make amends with others. The term was first coined by Gary Chapman in his book with co-author Jennifer Thomas, The Five Languages of Apology in 2008, who also penned The Five Love Languages.
Our apology language of choice can often be traced to our upbringing.
“As children, we all learned subtly different ways to make and receive apologies when there’s been a breach in the relationship,” said Gretta Duleba, a Seattle-based therapist.
While some of us never learned how to apologise, others learned to emphasise remorse, reparations or empathy.
“Knowing your personal style can help you educate your partner, cultivate more creative solutions, and change future behaviour in a way that allows the apology to aid in genuine repair,” said Louis Laves-Webb, an Austin-based therapist.
According to Laves-Webb, there are several common styles of apology, including the following four.
1. Words of ownership: talking
Unsurprisingly, this apology style relies on using words to acknowledge your past actions and how you’ll change your behaviour in the future.
As Laves-Webb says, “Words matter.”
2. Words of ownership: writing
If you get flustered during high-pressure conversations, conveying apologies in written form might be your style.
Whether that involves writing a thoughtful email or leaving a nice note for the other person, this strategy can also be useful if you feel like tensions are still high.
3. Acts of service
For some people, apologising through specific actions may be the best fit. But, if you think this is your apology language it’s important to be specific in the moves you make to show your regret.
4. Physical service
Do you crave hugs or physical connection after a conflict to ask for forgiveness? Then your apology language is physical touch.
“Physical closeness and physically bonding as a means of apologising can be reparative, soothing, and genuine,” Laves-Webb said. “When physical closeness is combined with true ownership and sincere apologetic sentiments, it can create a unique brand of apologising that not only acknowledges the hurt but simultaneously offers positive affirmation.”
What to do if you and your partner’s languages differ
Once you have determined what your apology language is, it’s important to figure out what category your partner and other important people in your life fall into, and it can be as simple as asking them!
If you find your apology languages differ, doing your best to understand the other person’s language and ensuring they know yours is the best way to move forward.
Laves-Webb also suggests ditching the rule of treating others the way you want to be treated. Instead, you should treat others the way they would like to be treated.
“Learning your partner’s apology language and making a concerted effort to ‘speak’ in their language can bring about better communication, openness, and emotional understanding,” he said.