They were sitting in my office when the wife said,
"I'd forgive him if he would just apologize."
He responded, "I did apologize."
"You did not."
"I told you I was sorry," he said.
"That is not an apology," she responded.
Have your apologies often fallen flat? Do your spouse's apologies connect and motivate you to forgive? Or are you married to someone who seldom apologizes?
As children, we learned about what it means to apologize. When little Johnny pushed Mary down the stairs, Mother said, "Tell her you're sorry." So Johnny said, "I'm sorry," even if he wasn't. As an adult, Johnny's concept of apologizing is probably saying, "I'm sorry." However, his wife, Julie, learned to say, "I was wrong. Will you please forgive me?" To her, that's what it means to apologize. So when her husband says, "I'm sorry," in her mind he hasn't apologized. He may be sincere, but his sincerity isn't getting through to his wife. After two years of research, Dr. Jennifer Thomas and I discovered that people have different apology languages. A person may be sincerely apologizing and yet, the apology isn't perceived as sincere because it's spoken in the wrong language. We discovered five distinct languages of apology.
- Expressing Regret: "I am sorry." "I feel badly that my behavior has hurt you so deeply." This language identifies with the emotions of the offended party.
- Accepting Responsibility: "I was wrong." Name your mistake and accept fault. "I should not have done that. There's no excuse. What I did was wrong."