…Apologizing is a sign of strength
This was another breakthrough moment for us in our first year of marriage. Skywalker’s actually very good at apologizing. To clarify, it’s not that I don’t apologize…certainly admitting I’m wrong is hard but I always do it when I believe I’m in the wrong. It’s that the way I apologize doesn’t get received as being sincere. So I’ve actually identified two things that affect apologies.
First, in any apology, the hearer is usually willing to accept it if they believe the apologizer is sincere. Problem is how we determine whether or not something is sincere….and this all has to do with how you were taught to apologize. In my family, you could do or say something nice as gesture of apology, or if you used words, you just say “I’m sorry.” And that’s the end of that. In Skywalker’s family you say what you’re sorry for…like “I’m sorry I reacted without getting clarification first.”
So what happened in the past for us would go something like one of these situations:
- I do something inconsiderate. Skywalker points that out. I mull over this, agree internally that it was inconsiderate, go and do something nice as a gesture of apology. Skywalker gets mad that I glossed over the inconsideration as if nothing happened by doing a nice action. I’m bewildered.
- I do something inconsiderate. Skywalker points that out. I mull over this, agree and say “I’m sorry.” Skywalker says, “You’re not sorry, you don’t even know what you’re sorry for!” So I say, “But I agree with you! I’m really sorry!” And he says, “I don’t believe you’re truly sorry.” I’m bewildered.
Anyone else know what I’m talking about??
So the author details out five languages of apology that are universal to what everyone would consider a sincere apology:
- Expressing Regret. This language appeals to the emotions. “I’m sorry I spoke harshly. I know I’ve hurt your feelings and I’m so sorry for that.”
- Accepting Responsibility. This language spells out what was done wrong. “I was wrong to speak to you in that tone. I shouldn’t have reacted like that.”
- Making Restitution. This one is all about how to make back up and usually the request will fall in line with that person’s love language. “I can’t believe I reacted that way. Please tell me what I can do to make it up to you.”
- Expressing desire to change behavior. Pretty self-explanatory. “I keep losing my temper and I know that’s not right. I don’t want to repeat this. Can you think of anything that could help make sure this doesn’t happen?”
- Requesting forgiveness. This is where forgiveness has to be requested before the apology is seen as being sincere. “I’m so sorry I spoke harshly and reacted the way I did. I know this hurts you. Will you please forgive me?”
One of these apology languages will resonate the most strongly with you (for me it’s expressing regret). And likely, a different one will resonate more strongly with your spouse (for Skywalker it’s accepting responsibility). So now, we’re learning how to apologize in each other’s languages….as well as to extend the grace in accepting an apology that didn’t come out in our prefered language.
This wasn’t in the book…but it’s something I heard decades ago (sad that I can say that)…and that is to NEVER say “I’m sorry…but…” ….even if there was wrong doing on the otherside as well. The “but” nullifies the whole apology in that you’re excusing your bad behavior on their bad behavior. You ALWAYS have a choice over your actions so you’re just responsible for owning up on your end….God will deal with your spouse separately. =)
Remember I said there were two things that affect apologies? I’ve covered the first bit pretty thoroughly but the second thing is related to how I will apologize for what “I” believe is wrong….which is problematic if I didn’t see anything wrong with my action but my spouse does see something wrong with it. Or vice versa. But that’s for another post.
So….what’s your apology language?