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Review of the Five Apology Languages by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas

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Review of the Five Apology Languages by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas
Fran Hill's Review of  the book The 5 Apology Languages

The introduction to The 5 Apology Languages is unequivocal: we all define the word ‘apology’ differently. You may think you’ve apologised to your spouse, your office colleague, or a fellow church member. They may not think you’ve apologised at all.

The 5 Apology Languages is a revised, updated version of the 2006 The Five Languages of Apology and 2013’s When Sorry Isn’t Enough. Dr Gary Chapman with his co-author, psychologist Dr Jennifer Thomas, has adapted the original materials for this new and absorbing exploration of apology and forgiveness. Part of a hugely successful series kick-started by the New York Times bestseller The 5 Love Languages, this new book has much to add.

One appealing and reassuring feature throughout is the case studies, particularly of couples. As Dr Thomas points out, research reveals that seventy-five per cent of couples use different apology languages. No wonder there are problems.

The book’s first chapter draws on Dr Chapman’s anthropological expertise. He explains our innate desire for justice and reconciliation. However, one person’s apology is another’s insincerity. So, the next five chapters examine the five apology languages in detail, meanwhile offering suggestions for statements with which to begin that awkward conversation.

The first apology language involves those magic words, ‘I’m sorry.’ Some people need to hear this said aloud. Without that specific, heartfelt expression (that isn’t followed by ‘but’), they doubt the authenticity. Hoping that the person you’ve offended realises you are sorry isn’t enough.

Others like to see the apologiser accepting responsibility: ‘I was wrong.’ However, many struggle to do this. Childhood experiences can teach us that apology equals weakness and that ‘Only losers confess.’ We resort to doubtful apologies such as that evasive linguistic construction, ‘I am sorry that you were offended.’

The third of the apology languages is making restitution. We can ask: ‘How can I make it right?’ It’s tangible reassurance that someone is truly sorry when real steps are taken to repair what was broken. The five love languages can help, and Dr Chapman reminds us of these: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch.

Making positive plans to change is another apology language: ‘I’ll take steps to prevent a recurrence.’ This chapter explains how to implement such change via clear and achievable goals. We may fail but we should keep trying.

The fifth apology language is requesting forgiveness: ‘Can you find it in your heart to …?’ Some need to hear that request before they’ll see the apology as genuine. Dr Chapman makes it clear, though, that forgiveness is a choice, not a right. The other person may need time, especially if they live with the consequences of your actions.

The book’s second half explores tricky questions. What if you don’t feel like apologising, don’t think it worth the effort, or still don’t think the offence was your fault? What if it doesn’t feel ‘natural’ to use another person’s preferred apology language? Also, is it possible to apologise too much or too quickly?

The final chapters deal with forgiveness itself, including helpful definitions. But forgiving isn’t easy and this is acknowledged. What if you need more time before you can forgive? What if you’ve lost your trust in the other person? How do you mend long-standing, bitter disputes within families? What if the person you can’t forgive is yourself?

The book ends with an ‘Apology Language Profile’, a self-test quiz that will ‘diagnose’ your own apology language(s).

Apologies and forgiveness can’t remove consequences, painful emotions, or memories. This book makes that abundantly clear. But it can offer a way ahead, past stalemate and hurt that paralyses relationships. 

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The 5 Apology Languages (Paperback)
Gary D. Chapman, Jenn Thomas
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