Thursday, June 14, 2007

I'm Sorry

I've mentioned it before, but The Five Love Languages has become a cornerstone in our marriage. In fact, I often give it to newly married or engaged couples (like my brother-in-law Kevin and his bride-to-be Sarah) so that they can begin their marriage with the foundation of communication and understanding that it took us several years to uncover. Although this book is written for married couples, I also use the philosophy in relating with my friends. Most of them are conversant with the terminology, so as we're discussing something that they appreciated, I'll just ask, "So, are you a Quality Time person?" and then I have a better handle on how to show them that I care.

Imagine my delight when I was listening to my favorite podcast (at this point maybe we can all say it together), HomeWord with Jim Burns, and the author Gary Chapman was featured with his new book The Five Languages of Apology.
I'm sorry.
I was wrong.
What can I do to make it right?
I really don't want this to happen again.
Will you please forgive me?
Each of these expressions correlates with a specific apology language--the words that someone needs to hear in order to understand that you are really sorry. You can listen to the podcast or read the book to find out the specifics behind each of those phrases, but just as with the love languages, simply understanding that it takes different words for people to take an apology seriously has been eye-opening to me.

In addition to explaining how and when to use each of the apology languages, Dr. Chapman delves into what it means to forgive (both for the one forgiving and the one who is forgiven). Unlike his love languages books, which are geared to a specific group--couples, singles, parents--Dr. Chapman says that everyone can benefit from this book. Each of us has reasons to forgive and/or ask for forgiveness on a weekly (if not a daily) basis. The relationships in which we should be using these skills include coworkers, family, friends and neighbors. There are also chapters on why some people never want to apologize and how to teach your children to forgive and ask for forgiveness.

Apologizing is one of our "house rules." I will admit that I am not always as consistent as I would like to be in my parenting, but this is something I really believe in. When I lose my cool with my kids, I apologize to them. When Kyle throws a fit, he has to apologize to me. When Amanda gets rough with Kyle and he gets hurt, whether she did it on purpose or not, she must say she's sorry. I am also trying to teach them to accept the apology and offer forgiveness.

Just yesterday Kyle showed me that he really was starting to understand--not only that it was a required step after he acts inappropriately--but what it really means to apologize. I had always used this big word, apologize, in conjunction with "Say you're sorry," but I was never sure how much he understood. He had been sent to sit on the stairs because of something he said to Amanda while we were cooking dinner together. He came back into the kitchen and said, "I want to 'gize. I want to 'gize to Amanda." He hugged her legs and said in the sweetest voice you can imagine, "Sorry. I sorry 'danda."

He got back up on his stool and continued his part of dinner preparation, crushing the tortilla chips. "Can I have a chip, Kyle?" Amanda asked. "No! My chips. Can't have them!" Kyle answered, his sweet voice replaced by the mean tone he has copied so well from his mommy.

"I guess he doesn't really understand what it means to be sorry," Amanda wryly observed.

It sounds like they need to learn to speak each other's language.


Katrina said...

I love the 'gize! So cute.

I listened to those podcasts too, and it gave me some things to think about. Since I'm big on having everyone here apologize, too, it made me consider how I feel about the languages. I think I'm an "I was wrong" type person, because Camden's never allowed to just say "I'm sorry." He has to say "I'm sorry for ________" so I think that is my way of enforcing the "I was wrong" part.

Noodle said...

We do this too. An improper action requires an apology, and not just "I'm sorry." It has to be said as "I'm sorry for [whatever I did]" in the proper tone of voice. I think it helps give ownership to the improper action.

I don't listen to podcasts (unless K-Love and Focus on the Family count), so maybe I'll look around for some!

L.L. Barkat said...

My husband has done a lot of research on apology (he's a conflict resolution professional).

The one part of apology I realize I've forgotten to teach, considering his findings, is the empathy moment ("it must have made you feel so empty when I said that" or "you must have felt like I was pushing you out in that moment" or whatever fits).

I wonder if this part is crucial because it may show the other person that we've actually understood the deep harm of our acts or words in their lives.

Carrie said...

Ahhh, yay! My husband and I also "clicked" with the Five Love Languages and I'm always asking new friends the same thing -- "What's your love language?" (in so many words). It does make things easier (for me, anyway!) to hear how I can relate to them in a more concrete way. I hadn't heard of the latest book on apologies so I appreciated your review. Thanks!

Sheila said...

Sounds like a good book. Thanks for the recommendation.

Beck said...

"Sorry" takes so long to understand. My son still thinks it means "I am sorry I got in trouble." So we're working on that...

Colleen (My Baby and More) said...

I fell in love with my husband because he told me he was "sorry". I had never heard a man say that before and it was HUGE to me. I make a point to say I am sorry to my children when I lose my cool. Although it may not be easy, I truly think it is one of the most important things to do. Thanks for this review! I am going to check it out.

angeleyes Blue said...

We have been tackling this concept in Sunday school all month. The best lesson I ever did was the soda can lesson. I pass around an empty soda can and ask all the children to squeeze the can. 4th-5th grade boys are very good at mangling the can. When the can gets back to me I say Oh I am sorry. I want it back the way it was. The kids are shocked and say we can't put it back the way it was. The 5th grade boys actually tried with all their might to put the can back into its original shape.

I point out to the class that even though you are sorry sometimes you can't take it back. You will always leave a mark whether you intended to or not.

I remind my classes that 'The words you think by are the words you live by' and 'to treat others the way you want to be treated.'

No matter how sorry they are... they do leave a mark and wouldn't it be better to leave a happy cheerful mark or thought instead of a hateful hurtful one.

Linsey said...

My oldest 2 kids(ds 4 and dd 2) really need to read that book! lol
They say the words but I want them to mean it!
I love the soda can idea!!