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Who’s Sorry Now? Women, Men, Apologizing and Confidence

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When did you last apologize? This morning? Last week? August 2009? Can’t remember? According to recently published research conducted at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, if you’re female, then you probably apologized before your second cup of coffee but, if you’re male, then maybe August 2009 isn’t unrealistic. Yes, women still apologize more frequently than men but not for the reasons you think.

The Apology Gender Gap

Once upon a time conventional wisdom was women apologized ‘too much’ because they were socialized to be nurturers and men didn’t apologize enough because they were socialized to be aggressive. Don’t you just love stereotypes?

According to the researchers these days men are just as willing as women to apologize for transgressions but do not think they make many mistakes so there is not much need to apologize.

The authors argue that women apologize because they are ‘sensitive’, not ‘too sensitive’ simply more sensitive than men. Of course, this makes men’s behavior the standard and women’s behavior some deviation from the mean, so I wonder: What would the world be like if women’s standards for apologizing were the norm and men’s standards deviant? But, I digress.

The researchers did identify three important beliefs about apologizing: - those who apologize too frequently (women) are perceived as weak or unsure and those who don’t apologize frequently enough (men) are insensitive and ‘clueless’, and, anyone apologizing for the sake of keeping the peace is failing.

The bottom line:

If the research is to be believed, then it is advisable for women to cut back on apologizing and for men, to start increasing your apology quota and everyone make sure those apologies are genuine.

Apology Confidence:

Sincere and well-timed apologies are a good idea for all of us. Sometimes we make mistakes and we should be apologizing so long as they’re reasoned, sincere and appropriate. Those kneejerk apologies that women are being accused of are interpreted as weakness. While sincere apologies keep the peace but people (regardless of gender) have different ideas of what makes a good apology.

During your next well-timed and sincere apologize, cover your bases and use the typology found in The Five Languages of Apology by Chapman & Thomas to build your apology confidence and make the most of making things right:

  1. Express regret: I am sorry.
  2. Accept responsibility: I was wrong
  3. Make restitution: What can I do to make this right?
  4. Genuinely repent: I’ll try not to do that again.
  5. Request forgiveness: Will you please forgive me?

Link to article research.

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