The Five Apology Languages

Many of us have heard of The Five Love Languages (and if you haven’t—no worries!) A quick review: there’s Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Physical Touch, Quality Time, and Acts of Service. As a couples therapist, The Five Love Languages is one of my favorite psychoeducational tools to use. And not just because taking the quiz is fun. It’s also because we often love other people the way WE like to be loved, rather than loving others the way THEY like to be loved.

So you can imagine how my eyes lit up when I recently learned of The Five Apology Languages.

Have you heard about this yet?

Well let’s shout it from the mountain tops because this may very well be needed just as much, if not more so than The Five Love Languages.

Before we go on, I invite you to take the quiz here to find out your results.

In the meantime, here’s a summary of each type.

Also, it should be noted that I myself did not develop The Five Languages (love, apology, or any otherwise for that matter) and all credit goes to Dr. Gary Chapman and his team.

Given this, let’s dive in with a summary of each type. As we go through, get curious about how you tend to apologize, how you WISH others apologized to you, and how others interact with you in actuality.

1. Planned change: Talk can be cheap. Committing to actual action can show that someone is truly sorry for what’s transpired and more importantly, that they do not want to do it again. This can include comments like, “I’m going to commit to X so that this does not happen again.” Or let’s say someone was late and left someone hanging, you may say something like, “I’m going to set an alarm on my phone so that I will be on time in the future.”

2. Make restitution: This person wants an apology that expresses genuine care for the relationship and a strong desire to seek resolution. If a wrong has transpired, that person wants to know that you care enough to restore the bond. This can include comments like, “I want you to know how much this relationship means to me and I will do everything in my power to fix our relationship. I don’t want to let you down again.”

3. Expressing regret: This one can be rather simple but still just as powerful. It’s owning that we are truly sorry for what we’ve done. It’s not denying, minimizing, or avoiding the blame. It’s saying, “I messed up and I’m deeply sorry. I own what I did and I am truly apologetic about what has happened. It breaks my heart that I’ve hurt you in this way.”

4. Accepting responsibility: It takes courage to fully step into the responsibility of blame. Owning that we’ve erred and taking the full heat is powerful. This can include statements like, “I take full ownership of my actions and I’m sorry for what took place. I see how what I did hurt you and accept the consequences fully from those actions.”

5. Request forgiveness: Sometimes we want to know fully that a person wants to restore the relationship by them asking for forgiveness. This can include a comment like, “Can you ever forgive me for this?” There’s vulnerability in a statement like this as the other person then gets to decide if forgiveness will in fact be granted. While some may find this a gesture of endearment, others may feel that it is demanding or then puts undue pressure on them to restore the relationship. Check in with the person with how they receive a statement like this.

Tempted to take the quiz if you haven’t done so already? Are you low-key sending it out to your friends and family?

Let’s use this tool for good—remembering that we all have things we need to apologize for, just as much as others may need to make amends with us.


Dr. Lauren Cook helps students fight the stigma of mental illness and teaches communities how to implement wellness. She shares how students can create a life of purpose by identifying and implementing individual and group values.