5 Apology Languages: Are You Saying Sorry The Right Way?

5 Apology Languages: Are You Saying Sorry The Right Way?

8 min read

Learning these apology languages will come in handy when resolving conflicts with your friends, partners, or even colleagues.

“I already say sorry, what else do you want?!” – Have you ever said or heard this from your spouse when you two got into a fight? If you have, you came to the right place. This phrase ah, was always thrown up whenever I quarrel with Umommy. She always says it is my fault, but when I say “sorry”, she is still angry leh

apology language

After years of fighting, I realised it’s because we have different apology languages! While I think that saying “sorry” is enough for an apology, Umommy thinks I’m just saying it to appease her and not because I’m truly apologetic. So after figuring out her apology language, I am now able to assure her that I am genuinely sorry about the things I’ve done.

And this is not just applicable to romantic partners and spouses! Knowing others’ apology language can also help you resolve conflicts with your friends, or even in a professional setting with your colleagues and boss. Imagine you made a mistake at work and you wanted to show how genuine you are in your apology. By using the wrong apology language, your colleagues or boss might find your apology insincere. You wouldn’t want that. So come come, let Uncle Tng teach you about this new #lifehack (as the kids would say).

There are five different apology languages, according to author and counsellor Gary Chapman:

1. Expressing Regret

apology language

This apology language zooms in on the emotional hurt you have caused to the other party. People who prefer this apology just want to hear a simple “I’m sorry”. By expressing regret, you are taking ownership of the wrong and are not making excuses for your actions. Saying “I’m sorry” to those who prefer this apology language also makes them feel validated that they have been hurt.

apology language

Image source: Unsplash

If you are apologising by expressing regret, make sure to complement your words with sincere body language. Unflinching eye contact and a gentle, but firm touch are two ways that you can seem more sincere when saying “sorry”.

2. Accepting Responsibility

apology language

If you say you’re sorry to people who value this apology language, their most common response would be, “What are you sorry for?” To them, an apology is more meaningful when the other party clearly states what they have done wrong. This way, they prove that they know what their mistake is. 

For those who prefer this apology language, they want to hear the words, “I am wrong.” You have to accept responsibility for your actions. If not, the other part will find your apology not meaningful and insincere.

When saying you’re sorry by accepting responsibility, you have to be able to put down your ego to admit your fault. Take note to point out which action(s) you did wrong. If you are not sure what the other party is upset about, make sure you clarify it before delivering your apology. This will make your apology sound more sincere and not merely done to humour the other party.

3. Making Restitution

apology language

Sounds cheem, but this actually just means to make amends for your wrongs. When apologising to someone whose primary apology language is making restitutions, saying you’re sorry or what you did wrong is not sincere enough. You must show strong efforts to make amends for your wrong. People who value this language want you to make things right with your actions, not just words.

A genuine apology for people who value the “making restitution” language will be accompanied by the assurance that you still treasure the relationship and have a desire to right your wrongs.  

But how can you make amends? Well, knowing the other party’s love language can help! The restitution that you offer will be more effective if it is aligned with the other person’s primary love language.


Image source: Unsplash

For example: If the other party’s preferred love language is Acts of Service, and you are apologising for forgetting to do a task you promised to, you can offer to make things right by doing tasks for them. On the other hand, if the other party’s primary love language is Receiving Gifts, you can offer to make amends by buying a thoughtful gift.  

4. Genuinely Repenting

apology languages

People who value this particular apology language find repentance is the convincing factor in an apology. They want you to address the root of the problem to make sure the same mistake does not happen again. If your apology is not accompanied by a desire to modify your behaviour to avoid the situation in the future, it might come across as insincere. 

For those who value this apology language, they don’t just want you to be sorry. They want to be assured that you plan to change, so this conflict will less likely arise again. They need proof that you are working towards being better and that you will not let them down the next time.

When apologising in this language, one important aspect is to verbalise your desire to change. It is also important to the other party that you make a dedicated plan for change. According to Gary Chapman, apologies involving repentance often fail because the person apologising did not set up steps of action to help ensure success. So to be more sincere in your apology, you can list out steps you can take to successfully change your ways.

5. Requesting Forgiveness

apology languages

Although it may seem obvious, the fifth type of apology language is to seek forgiveness. By asking that from the people you made unhappy, it shows that you realise you’ve done something wrong and that you are willing to put the future of the relationship in the hands of the offended person.

By placing the ball in their court, they would also feel that there is room for them to consider your apology before deciding if they want to accept it. People who prefer this apology language want to know if the person apologising is willing to wait until they are ready to make a decision regarding the conflict. They want to be given space.

When apologising in this language, it is important to remember that there is a difference between asking for forgiveness and demanding forgiveness. Forgiveness is a choice the offended party is supposed to make. Demanding forgiveness from the other party takes away the sincerity of asking for it, and will render your apology ineffective.

Singlish version

(Context: You are 2 hours late to meet your friend)

Expressing Regret: I’m sorry, don’t angry please.
Accepting Responsibility: I made you wait so long, my fault, my fault! 
Making Restitution: I’ll treat you to 5 days of bubble tea! 
Genuinely Repenting: Next time I confirm set my alarm earlier so I won’t late okay?
Requesting Forgiveness: Will you forgive me for being so late?


Know the apology language of yourself and others

Now that you know about the different apology languages, the next step is to find out what language the person you would like to apologise to prefers. When I found out about this, I made everyone in my family take this free quiz I found online. Now I know what to say or do if I happen to anger anyone in the Tng family. Heh, heh, heh. So quick! Go get your friends, family and boss to do this quiz!

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