Friday, February 24, 2012

Talking with Dr. Jen

A few weeks ago, I met Dr. Jennifer Thomas.  We introduced ourselves and chatted about our families and our work as counselors.  Along the way, she casually mentioned that she had co-authored THE FIVE LANGUAGES OF APOLOGY with Dr. Gary Chapman.  Slowly my jet-lagged brain put 2+2 together as it dawned on me who she was.  Her work had really hit home for me when I was writing APOLOGIZING WELL last April.

So I'm happy that I was able to get to know her a bit.  Easy to talk with and delightfully perceptive, she's the kind of woman you find yourself leaning toward when she speaks.  She's that interesting.  I'm especially fascinated with her focus on apologies in the media.  You can follow her tweets here.  

I'm thankful that she agreed to an interview because I think her work is important.  I've yet to meet someone who didn't need to apologize.  And many of us don't know how to do this well.

So here we go ...

Please tell us a little about yourself.
I'm a follower of Jesus. I'm an imperfect wife and mother. I grew up in West Virginia but moved to North Carolina with my husband 13 years ago to be near my sister and her family. I'm a part-time therapist in a group practice because I love to sit with people, hear their stories, and help them along in their journeys. I was pleased to take on a new volunteer role this month: therapist-in-training at an Inheritance of Hope retreat.

What led you to write this book?
The Lord worked through a struggle in my own marriage to show me this: People are waiting to hear different parts of an apology. That is, the evidence of sincerity differs from person to person because we have different apology languages. I shared this idea with Gary Chapman and he offered to write The Five Languages of Apology with me. We both have a burden to help people remove the barriers that offenses cause. Apologies open the doorway to forgiveness. 

What surprised you most as you wrote?
The process took a lot of time. We surveyed 500 people about what they listen for in an apology. I entered and analyzed that data. Their replies fell into what became our five languages of apology. We found that none of the 5 languages of apology got more than 28% of the first place votes. This gave us further motivation to plug along in our writing. You really can't guess what will convey sincerity to others; you need to talk about it.

The biggest disappointment?
Because I believe our book can help people find healing in their relationships, I'd like to get it into more hands. Most people think of Gary Chapman's Five Love Languages bestsellers but he has numerous other great books on the market, including ours. I'm working to prevent our book from being a well-kept secret!

What's the most important truth you want your readers to grab hold of?
There are two essentials for healthy relationships: showing love/appreciation and dealing with offenses. Conflict should not be swept under the rug. Whether it's at home or at work, it's important to circle back to problems and provide an apology that hits its mark. Some people avoid apologizing in order to save face. In reality, we most respect those who apologize whenever it's needed.

How did writing this impact you personally?
I'm more mindful of apologies. When I see them in the news, I analyze and blog about them. When I hear a public apology, I wonder what the listener/s really wanted to hear. In my personal life, I bend over backwards to apologize. I even sought out an old flame at my high school reunion and apologized for the immature way I'd cut off our dating relationship. Fortunately, he accepted my apology and we had a good laugh about it.

Final thoughts?
I'd like to recommend a couple of resources:
1) Counseling provided by a Christian Counselor can be helpful in handling big offenses ( has a therapist search option).
2) Gary Chapman leads uplifting marriage retreats. I see that he'll be in New York state in late March. His schedule is here:

Thanks, Jen! 

I encourage you to explore her sites and grab hold of the book, which currently ranks at #6 on Amazon's list of conflict management bestsellers.  Apologizing well and the whole issue of forgiveness are huge issues in our lives.  I'm thinking it's past time that we get serious about taking care of business in this area.  The health of our relationships is at stake.

P.S.  Last night I had to ask a dear friend for forgiveness for a bone-headed, insensitive remark I threw in her direction ... in front of a group of people. She was kind and gracious ... and I love her more than ever!

{This post is the 1st in the new Seven Questions interview series.}


  1. yay! this just made me SMILE a lot :) thankful for you Linda & Jen !

  2. What a team God continues to pull together! I'm ever so thankful that we get to serve Him by caring for families in crisis ...

    Thanks for stopping in, Meredith ... and for sending people this way with the link on your blog!


  3. Thank ou for your thought provoking and stimulating blogs. Great interview. Great truth. Keep the good stuff coming!

  4. I'm having a ball trolling around, collecting resources, connecting to other blogs, pulling it all together for our readers!

    So glad you're having fun with us! Thanks for dropping by!

  5. Conflict should not be swept under the rug. Whether it's at home or at work, it's important to circle back to problems and provide an apology that hits its mark."

    So, so true! I see that in my own life. And recently in the life of a friend who has swept conflict under the rug in her marriage for 28 years. It finally got too full under there, and now the rug has self-destructed. But it has forced them to deal with reality now, and I pray the next 28 years for them will be much better!

    1. Yes, yes. The more that's tucked away untended, the bigger the pile we have to walk over, around, avoid, pretend is not there. Authentic relationships, once beautiful and free, fly out the window. We all lose.

      The sad truth? We've all been there, done that. And have the scars to show for it ...


Welcome to the table, friend!

This is where we gather and hang out. I'd love for you to pull up a chair and jump right into the conversation. Or simply say 'hello.'

l'll be dropping in to visit you sometime soon ...


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