The Five Languages of Apology

Review by Rev. Mark Hunter

This book offers an incredible perspective on communication, especially as it relates to how we receive an apology, and how we apologize ourselves. I found this to be a mind-opening book that helped me more fully understand why some people seem to accept our apology very quickly and others struggle with it more. Have you ever had those times when you tell others you’re sorry and they look you in the eye and tell you that you aren’t or they don’t believe you? Different people apologize in different ways and, similarly, different people want to be apologized to in different ways. Forgiveness is always important in the life of a Christian. We have been forgiven by God for our acts of rebellion and selfishness. Jesus tells us that somehow our forgiveness of others is used as a measure of how God forgives us. This is a book about forgiveness that may bring you satisfaction if you apply its lessons.

The book is an easy read and uses a number of stories and illustrations to help you understand and apply the information. Gary Chapman is the author of The Five Love Languages and provides much of the illustrative material. Jennifer Thomas is largely the person who has done the research for this material and is basing it on The Five Love Languages to a certain extent. I find the science behind the publication to be solid and have personally found that applying these principles can help resolve conflict and even prevent conflict if appropriately managed. I use this book in my Good to Great small group each session.

The basic teaching of this book is that people are diverse and complex. Language and communication is not some simple thing, because even as we speak the same language, such as English, the way we hear and experience language is different from person to person. Thomas and Chapman believe there are five distinct ways people experience the communication of apology. They are:

  • Expressing regret – “I am sorry.”
  • Accepting responsibility – “I was wrong.”
  • Making restitution – “What can I do to make it right?”
  • Genuinely repenting – “I’ll try not to do that again.”
  • Requesting forgiveness – “Will you please forgive me?”

This book also comes with a short survey at the back of the book to help you learn and understand your own language of apology and learn how to compensate for people who apologize differently than you. It also offers helpful advice for each style that you may have, as to how to hear an apology and how to offer apology. I highly recommend this book for anybody that has ever talked to another human being.

Chapman, Gary and Thomas, Jennifer (2006) The Five Languages of Apology.Northfield Publishing. 280 pages.