The five keys to an apology. Why women say “sorry” more than men do
I was at a recent conference promoting best practices in industrial psychology. This is where the psychology of business practices are explored. I was there as a guest of my friend, a lecturer from Purdue University. What I took from it was details about how few people make a decent apology.
This means not getting defensive, not justifying your behaviour. I means not talking about how the situation is impacting you, but honestly, owing the fact that you made someone upset. And finally it is taking clear steps to solve the problem. Even if you don’t know what you did, make an effort to respect the other person’s feelings and acknowledge that they are upset goes a long, long way in solving the misunderstanding.
Now there is some new research from Business Insider that explains why women are much more likely to say “I’m sorry” than men are.
Women are more easily offended than men. In turn, they perceive more of their own behavior as improper, requiring an apology:
Despite wide acceptance of the stereotype that women apologize more readily than men, there is little systematic evidence to support this stereotype or its supposed bases (e.g., men’s fragile egos). We designed two studies to examine whether gender differences in apology behavior exist and, if so, why. In Study 1, participants reported in daily diaries all offenses they committed or experienced and whether an apology had been offered. Women reported offering more apologies than men, but they also reported committing more offenses. There was no gender difference in the proportion of offenses that prompted apologies.
And here is what the study from the University of Waterloo concluded.
Men, according to conventional wisdom, are stubbornly unwilling to apologize. Countless pop psychology books have referenced this reluctance, explaining that our egos are too fragile to admit we’re wrong, or we’re oblivious to important nuances of social interaction. But newly published research suggests that these explanations miss the mark. Writing in the journal Psychological Science, University of Waterloo psychologists Karina Schumann and Michael Ross report that men are, indeed, less likely to say “I’m sorry.” But they’re also less likely to take offense and expect an apology from someone else. Their conclusion is that “men apologize less frequently than women because they have a higher threshold for what constitutes offensive behavior.” Whether on the giving or receiving end, males are less likely to feel an unpleasant incident is serious enough to warrant a statement of remorse. Either way, this disconnect creates “unfortunate consequences for mixed-gender interactions,” Schumann and Ross note. “For example, if women perceive offenses that their male romantic partners do not notice, women might interpret an absence of an apology as evidence that their partners are indifferent to their well-being. Similarly, men may regard their female partners as overly sensitive and emotional.”