Saying Sorry at Work

SEX - When it comes to saying sorry most men don't do it unless they actually think they've done something wrong.

And now we have scientific proof of what goes on inside a man's brain.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo have finally determined why your husband or boyfriend won’t apologize. It’s because men don’t think they've done anything wrong, whereas women think everything that everyone else does is untrustworthy or sketchy at best.

In the study by Waterloo psychologists Karina Schumann and Michael Ross they asked 66 people (33 women & 33 men) to keep track of how many times they apologized or said sorry for anything over a 12-day period.

What they discovered was that men and women both apologize about 80% of the time. And we're talking general apologies, like you bumped into them, stepped on their foot, etc... not necessarily the big traumatic apologies like "I'm sorry I got you pregnant five years ago!" or "I'm sorry I dropped the baby down the stairs and we had to take it to the hospital for surgery."

So men and women apologize equally as often... but the difference lies in the fact that women feel they apologized more often and felt that they caused more offence.

Men in contrast, even though they apologize just as often, felt they had caused less offence and that it wasn't that serious.

It should also be noted that both sexes apologized as graciously and just as effusively if they believed an apology was actually owed.

So there. The myth that men don't apologize has been busted. Men DO apologize just as often as women, but the difference is their perception about the seriousness of what they apologizing for.

Now we might chalk some of this down to the fragile male ego and why they don't think some things are that serious.

ie. Lets say a man and a woman are in the heat of the moment and he doesn't put on a condom until halfway through the sexual activity. The man later ejaculates into the safety of the condom, but in the morning the woman gets upset that they had unprotected sex. At the time she didn't fuss about it so he thought she wasn't that concerned about it. Turns out she was, so he apologizes, explaining that he didn't know it was such a big deal to her.

Now obviously a woman is going to take pregnancy a lot more seriously. Even the threat of it can send a woman into a panic (unless she wants kids).

In contrast the male response is "no harm done" and "what's the big deal?"

Perception is a tricky thing.

The Schumann & Ross study found that the "I'm Sorry" discrepancy was “heightened” when it comes to romantic partnerships. Women perceived many more offences from their boyfriend/husband, than their husband/boyfriend perceived from them. We might be able to draw the conclusion that women are more picky, but there's no proof of that. All we know is that women perceive the things men do as wrong and are more insistent that those perceived wrongs should be apologized for.

ie. When I was 18 I went out with a girl (Kristin Greniaus) and she cut the date short early on because apparently I didn't compliment her on her dress and her hair enough. Please note that I did compliment her, but apparently it wasn't enough of a compliment... Go figure. She had apparently put a lot of effort into her hair and the dress and even though I did compliment her she believed the compliment wasn't particularly special. (Personal Note: I sent Kristin a message on Facebook informing her of this blog post. I hope she doesn't mind me using her as an example. I've told this story to hundreds of people because it epitomizes the whole ridiculousness of relationships.)

The researchers give us the following advice:

“(T)hese discrepant perceptions might have unfortunate consequences for mixed-gender interactions.”

Which basically is code for men to apologize even when they don't think they've done anything wrong.

As fragile as male egos go, if you really want to maintain the cohesiveness of the relationship, its worth it to assuage the female's perception of a wrong by giving the apology even if you don't think its worth an apology.


Sometimes (and many men will attest to this fact) sometimes women demand an apology and don't tell men what they've done wrong... this apologize-or-else ultimatum is combined quite subtly (and is very childish) with the refusal to tell the man what they have done wrong.

"If you don't know what you've done wrong then maybe we should just break up."

Its one part silent treatment and one part ultimatum. (As proven in previous blog posts we've already determined that the silent treatment is a childish methodology which ultimately damages relationships and causes unnecessary stress. See Being Wishy Washy at Work.)

“Apologies go a long way in promoting forgiveness and relationship well-being,” says Schumann. “So if people think a partner isn’t apologizing for selfish reasons or they don’t want to admit they’re wrong, it really does make the initial offence worse.”

In other words the perceived wrong isn't the real issue here... its the perception that the male won't apologize, even if its a minor thing not worthy of an apology.

ie. The male forgets to take out the garbage + The male won’t apologize for forgetting = The male committed murder and must be punished.

So in other words males should just apologize all the time?

“Ummmm. Ahhhhh,” says Schumann. “Don’t put words in my mouth . . . If they find that their female partner is upset with them, they should inquire as to why, instead of brushing it off as the woman being overly emotional. They should also accept that their partner has a different experience of the event.”

So yeah... the basic concept is that you should listen carefully, apologize and hopefully the female will later realize it wasn't the male's fault in the first place.

So why does this happen?

It’s very scientific but here is the Coles notes version:

Women are emotional empaths and crave communication.

Men are hungry, sleepy or distracted and sometimes not in the mood for a big conversation.

Hopefully that wee bit of insight will help people in their relationships.

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