What most people are looking for in an apology is sincerity. But how do you determine sincerity? Research has revealed that there are five basic elements to an apology. I call them the five languages of apology. For an apology to be accepted, you need to speak the language that conveys to the offended your sincerity.
The first language of apology is expressing regret, or saying, “I’m sorry.” It is expressing to the offended person your own sense of pain that your behavior has hurt them.
Without the expression of regret, some people do not sense that the apology is adequate. A simple “I’m sorry” can go a long way toward restoring goodwill. An apology has more impact when it is specific. The details reveal the depth of your understanding of the situation and how much you inconvenienced your spouse.
Sincere regret needs to stand alone. It should never be followed with “But…” One husband said, “She apologizes, then blames her actions on something I did to provoke her. Blaming me does little to make the apology sincere.”
When we shift the blame to the other person, we have moved from apology to an attack. Blame and attacks never lead to forgiveness and reconciliation. When you are apologizing, let “I’m sorry,” stand alone. Don’t continue by saying, “But if you had not yelled at me I would not have done it.”
For many people, receiving a sincere expression of regret is the strongest language of apology. It is what convinces them that the apology is sincere. Without it, they will hear your words but they will appear empty.
Featured Resource: The Five Languages of Apology