Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we do foolish things. Sometimes we don’t behave as well as we’d hoped. If we have courage, we apologize. We say, “I’m sorry”.
But what if that isn’t enough? What if our friends and teachers and supervisors are still upset with us? What if we’ve said “I’m sorry” so often that they don’t believe us anymore? What if they think we’re not really sorry at all but only feel sorry that they’re mad at us? What then?
There is a book that can help us. The Five Languages of Apology by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas (Northfield Pub., 2006) is all about different ways of apologizing so that people can understand that we really are sorry for our mistakes. It also is a reminder for us: if we really are sorry for what we’ve done, we’ll change our behaviour.
The authors of the book explain that people have different ways of apologizing and each of us tends to have a favourite. As you read through the list, see if you can identify your favourite way of apologizing. Then ask your family members and close friends if they have favourites. Remember, though, that we frequently have to use more than one way of apologizing to make sure that people know we really are sorry for the mistakes we’ve made.
saying we’re sorry for what we’ve done
admitting we did something we shouldn’t have done
(and sometimes admitting that we knew at the time that we shouldn’t do it)
doing something good to make up for what we’ve done
honestly promising to try hard to never make that mistake again
asking the person we hurt to forgive us
Note to teachers: before doing these activitivies, there must, of course, be a climate of trust in the classroom so that students will not simply be learning acting skills rather than gaining an understanding that human beings make mistakes for which they may be forgiven if they genuinely apologize.
1. In a small group, make up and perform a short skit in which at least one person apologizes for poor behaviour.
2. Think of a time you made a mistake that required you to apologize. Write and perform a little speech to show what you could have said now that you know more about apologizing.
3. Write a letter to someone to whom you once apologized. Write the letter showing what you would say now that you know more about apologizing.
4. Create a little comic strip showing the five ways of apologizing.
5. Make a poster showing the five ways of apologizing. Ask your teacher where you could display it for others to see.
6. Listen, in the next week, for how other people apologize. Watch to see how people receive the apologies. Consider whether a different apology would have had a different effect. Be prepared to discuss your observations in class without revealing the names of the people you observed.
7. Watch to see how people react when you apologize in the next week. See if people’s reactions change if you use different ways of apologizing. Be prepared to discuss your observations in class without revealing the names of the people you observed.
8. Discuss in class or write a letter to your teacher telling what you think about this: When students say, “I’m sorry”, are they generally really apologizing? Or are they simply hoping to quickly “get out of trouble” without changing their behaviour in the future?
9. Discuss in class or write a letter to your teacher telling what you think about this: Has a teacher or other adult ever apologized to you? What effect did that have on you?
10. Write a short story or poem that involves one character apologizing to another.
[This page may be copied for use with students if the following credit is provided: ©2009 Sophie Rosen.