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Thursday, April 14, 2011

T3 - The Languages of Apology

Last week we looked at the five languages of love, based on Dr. Gary Chapman's book, The Five Love Languages. This week I want to introduce you to Chapman and Thomas' book, The Five Languages of Apology.

In much the same way that the love languages work, if you aren't speaking your partner's apology language, then they won't hear it. I can't tell you how many times in counseling I've had one person say, "If he would just apologize, then maybe I could move on." The man then says, "I did apologize! I said I was sorry." She says, "That's not an apology!"

Our characters are constantly messing up, or we wouldn't have conflict and tension on the pages. Consequently, they usually have to say they are sorry. Use this post to help you consider the best way for your particular character, with his/her temperament and characterization layers, to say they are sorry.

Paraphrased from Chapman's website:
  • Expressing Regret - "I'm sorry."
    “Expressing Regret” zeroes in on emotional hurt. It is an admission of guilt and shame for causing pain to another person. For those who listen for “Expressing Regret” apologies, a simple “I’m sorry” is all they look for, provided the apology has truly come from the heart. “Expressing Regret” gets right to the point, doesn’t make excuses or attempt to deflect blame, and takes ownership of the wrong. “Expressing Regret” speaks most clearly when the person offering the apology reflects sincerity not only verbally, but also through body language. Unflinching eye contact and a gentle, but firm touch are two ways that body language can underscore sincerity.
  • Accept Responsibility - "I was wrong."
    For many individuals, all they want is to hear the words, “I am wrong.” If an apology neglects accepting responsibility for their actions, many partners will not feel as though the apology was meaningful and sincere. Many partners need to learn how to overcome their ego, the desire to not be viewed as a failure, and simply admit that their actions were wrong. For a mate who speaks this apology language, if an apology does not admit fault, it is not worth hearing.
  • Make Restitution - "What can I do to make this right?"
    A mate who speaks this love language believes that in order for an apology to be sincere, the person who is apologizing should justify their actions. The transgressor must learn the victim’s love language (Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Physical Touch, and Receiving Gifts) and use that specific language in order to make restitutions in the most effective way. For a mate whose primary apology language is making restitutions, no matter how often you say “I’m sorry”, or “I was wrong”, your mate will never find the apology sincere. You must show strong efforts for making amends. A genuine apology will be accompanied by the assurance that you still love your mate 
and have a desire to right the wrong-doings committed.
  • Genuinely Repent - "I'll work hard to avoid doing that again."
    For some individuals, repentance is the convincing factor in an apology. Some mates will doubt the sincerity of an apology if it is not accompanied by their partner’s desire to modify their behavior to avoid 
the situation in the future. One important aspect of genuinely repenting is verbalizing your desire to change. Your mate cannot read your mind. Though you may be trying to change inside, if you do not verbalize your desire to change to your mate, most likely they will still be hurt. It is also important to make a dedicated plan for change. Often apologies involving repentance fail because the person never set up steps of action to help ensure success.
  • Request Forgiveness - "Will you please forgive me?"
    In some relationships, a mate wants to hear their partner physically ask for forgiveness. They want assurance that their mate recognizes the need for forgiveness. By asking forgiveness for their actions, a partner is really asking their mate to still love them. Requesting forgiveness assures your mate that you want to see the relationship fully restored. It also proves to your mate that you are sincerely sorry for what you’ve done. It shows that you realize you’ve done something wrong. Requesting forgiveness also shows that you are willing to put the future of the relationship in the hands of the offended mate. You are leaving the final decision up to your partner – to forgive or not forgive.
Of course, to up the tension in your books, you might consider having the person your character is trying to apologize to not speak the same language. Always makes for a more interesting read.

Wordle: signature


Sierra Gardner said...

Oh - this is interesting! I'd never heard of that one before. I'm totally a 'I'll try not to do that again' type of person. Since I very rarely do something hurtful or thoughtless on purpose I usually feel like a commitment to ceasing behavior is enough. I guess I'll start paying more attention to whether or not that works for the people in my life =)

Cecilia Marie said...

Great insight. Thanks!

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.