I’m Sorry

Tonight (7/7/09) I heard Dr. Gary Chapman speak at the first banquet at this year’s Smart Marriages Conference in Orlando. His latest book (until August) is The Five Languages of Apology. When he began the research with the originator of the idea, he wasn’t looking for a number but he was pleased that it ended in "five." Chapman is the author of the famous The Five Love Languages. His original book has been translated into 58 languages and has helped countless numbers of couples.

I am writing from memory since I left my notes in the car where it would be convenient in the morning. So, here goes. The first language of apology is expressing regret, usually by saying, "I’m sorry" and hence the title of this blog. Oddly enough, their research found that saying "I’m sorry" is not enough for some people. They want something more or different. But, he added later that for small offenses "I’m sorry" will usually suffice. But the apology must be sincere and there should never be a "but" added. In addition, an apology should never shift blame to the other party, such as "I’m sorry I hurt you." This implies that it is the person’s fault that that person is thin skinned.

Some of the other languages of apology are: making restitution, asking for forgiveness, genuinely repenting (help me never do it again), and making restitution. In each case, a person favors one of these languages over another. If the offending party does not use the language of apology that the other person expects to hear, then the other person does not believe an apology has taken place. This is key: if apologies are not heard, then resentment builds up and then spouses begin to feel that their marriage has become loveless and they become more distant.

Oftentimes, how someone apologizes is what was taught to that person by her or his parents. It is suggested the best way to teach children is to teach them personal responsibility. When a child does something either on purpose or by accident, the child will usually say that it happened all by itself. Say instead, "I (accidentally) caused (what ever the incident was)."

The easiest way to discover what your language of apology is, is to ask: How do I apologize to others? How do I want to hear in an apology? The answer to these to questions will likely reveal what your language of apology is.

In addition, this principle can translate into all other relationships. They are surveying businesses. In all the businesses contacted to date, none train their employees how to apologize to each other. They do trainings for apologizing to customers, but not to each other. So, they are bringing these principles to the work place.

Now if we can only train nations to apologize to each other.

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