Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Apology Olympics

"If there were an apology Olympics, women would beat the pants off men. According to recent research, including a study at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, a clear-cut gender gap emerges when measuring just how often men and women apologize as well as the reasons behind it. While many women say 'sorry' as automatically as they say hello and goodbye, they also apologize for something as simple as bumping into someone's chair. Men, in contrast, see no reason to apologize for trivial transgressions like a chair bump."

I've been intrigued by this article by Merci Miglino ever since I first read it.

It is called "Apologizing -- Again?" and discusses how women are much more likely to apologize than men...and how apologizing can be dis-empowering and potentially part of the cycle of domestic violence.

Why domestic violence?  Because of the idea that domestic violence victims apologize "for anything and everything."  And of course that is not healthy.

But I want to point something else out.

Abusers apologize too. They say things like:

"I'm won't happen again."

"I'm sorry...I didn't mean to hurt you."

"I'm sorry...if you didn't make me so crazy, it wouldn't have happened."

That isn't healthy either.

Personally, I think apologizing from a place of strength is a sign of....strength. Not weakness.  My husband would tell you that while I might say "I'm sorry" for bumping someone in a is REALLY hard for me to say "I'm sorry" when something is real.  It is difficult for me to admit that I caused harm or hurt to him. I feel like the Fonz trying to say "I was wrong." After almost 19 years of marriage it is still hard to get the words out.

I am not sure how healthy it is to tell anyone - women or men - that it is in "our wiring" to apologize...and that somehow that is not ok.

I think it is better to  teach our children (and ourselves) how to say "I was wrong" - and mean it.

What do you think?


Susan said...

You are right. It is not easy to admit it when we are wrong, but when we do, it shows strength, not weakness. That is not the same as saying "I'm sorry" when you hear bad news or say it casually as a courtesy word like please or excuse me.
Regarding abuse, it is also psychologically abusive to make someone apologize in order to keep the peace, especially if that occurs regularly.

Anonymous said...

MY sister works for a gov't dept here in Canada for a very tyrannical female supervisor. When my sister, who is Bipolar returned to work from a vacation it was to find her own job and her supervisor's had been restructured and her supervisor's had been eliminated.This woman was the most tyrannical unpleasant woman imaginable, frequently taking her rages out on my sister, who suffered in silence. When my sister told me this woman's job was eliminated ,I was relieved.My sister is a wonderful competent person who happens to struggle with Bipolar Disorder and I worried for her emotional health under so much work stress daily. Why do people-men and women alike- think screaming, raging, bullying, even criticising their employees is acceptable workplace behavior?I believe you reap what you sow in this life. She deserved to lose her professional gov't job in my opinion, though m sister seems sympathetic towards her now.Workplace violence and bullying is very real!

Sarah R said...

This is quite interesting, I've never really thought about something like that. I say "I'm sorry" soooo much when I feel 'guilty' for something instead of admitting that I am wrong. I think 'I'm sorry' has become like a crutch term instead of actually admitting when you're wrong. So many people will say 'I'm Sorry' even for things they don't have to say 'I'm sorry' for. I know it bugs me if my friends say something like 'I'm sorry I forgot...' I always think-and tell them you don't have to be sorry for forgetting-like to text me, call or email me if they say something like that. I also find I'll say 'I'm sorry' even when it's not me who caused something but my Dad who will give me a 'silent treatment' if he plans something which he frequently does with me and then the day of he always cancels. If I give him the truth about what he does, he can't handle the truth and he won't talk to me and I'll try to send him an email, or call him and say 'I'm sorry' even though its him and not me...because I guess since he's my Dad, I feel responsible somehow...

KWG said...

I grew up in a home where "I'm sorry" was more prevalent than "I love you" -- but without empathic connection to the context of the why of sorry (mental and physical abuse, infidelity, etc.). It was reactive non-emotional auto-response, like saying "I'm fine" when someone asks "How are you?". I grew up doing the same thing, saying sorry after the fact, but when I finally learned to be of mindful presence and accountable for my every action, then the wrongs could be made right in the light of "sorry." Because you learn from them, adapt and live better with happiness.

Kim Wells said...

Thank you -- all of you -- for your wonderful thoughts and comments. So appreciated. Clearly this sparked thoughts (and feelings) in you like it did in me! Kim