June 23, 2024

Do you apologize a lot to people? See what studies say about this habit

5 min read
Do you apologize a lot to people?  See what studies say about this habit

Some people use “I’m sorry” several times a day. They apologize for the weather, their sick cat, and other minor challenges beyond anyone’s control.

These “chronic apologies” are often called upon to break the habit of saying “I’m sorry.” But should they? Can anyone really apologize that much?

Scientific evidence indicates that you should never apologize for the sake of apologizing.

In an unusual study, researchers tested the effect of Unnecessary apology. A man approached dozens of strangers waiting at a train station on a rainy day and asked to borrow their mobile phones.

Most people – 91% – refused. But when he tried a different tactic, first apologizing for the wet weather, it was more successful. He said, “Sorry about the rain!” “Can I borrow your cell phone?”

Almost half of strangers apologized to the man for handing over the phone. The findings, by researchers at Harvard Business School and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, may surprise those who find “chronic apologies” annoying and unnecessary.

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The train station study, along with other research on human behavior and psychologyindicates that the act of saying “I’m sorry”, in various circumstances, is an effective method of presentation sympathy by others.

“No apology researcher really is going to tell you that apologizing is bad,” said Alison Wood Brooks, associate professor at Harvard Business School and lead author of the study. “There is simply no evidence that no apology is better than at least one.”

Apologizing for the bad weather, the traffic, or saying “I’m sorry, you’re not feeling well” can all be conversational aids. Experts say that people appreciate it when someone acknowledges their problems.

As a PhD student in 2013, Brooks was the principal investigator on four studies on unnecessary apologies, including the Train Study, and found that this type of apology can build feelings of trust.

“An unnecessary apology is not about guilt,” Brooks said. “It’s an acknowledgment of someone else’s suffering, basically, even if it’s incredibly small.”

These unnecessary excuses may sound like an “anxious tic” — like starting a conversation with, “Sorry to bother you” — but this small attempt to acknowledge someone else’s situation has its benefits, researchers say.

“The most common mistake is not apologizing enough rather than apologizing often,” Brooks said.

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“The most common mistake is not apologizing enough rather than apologizing too much,” says the researcher. filming: Brett Jordan/Unsplash

Karina Schumann, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, said that women apologize slightly more than men on average in her research.

But this is likely because women are more likely to perceive certain behavior as offensive and thus deserve more of an apology. Kareena said the perceived gender gap “isn’t as big as people think”. It is not clear if the woman suffers any consequences from the regular apologies.

The teacher said, “Men apologize like women when they realize they did something wrong.” “Once their brain has decided it was a crime, they are willing to apologize.”

She said people have different understandings — or “baselines” — of when it’s appropriate to apologize to someone else.

In one study, Karina et al. write that people who are less narcissistic and more empathetic are more likely to apologize. Those who apologize more often are seen by others as friendly and ethical compared to those who don’t.

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“Excuses are incredibly effective most of the time,” said Karina Schumann. “They are really needed in most of our relationships to alleviate everyday grievances and then help mend larger grievances.”

However, not every “I’m sorry” is an apology, said Deborah Tannen, a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University. The person may say “I’m sorry” but not as an admission of guilt. They just say, “I’m sorry it happened,” said Deborah, who has written a book about disconnection in conversational styles between men and women at work.

“It’s often just an automatic ritual,” said Deborah. “You can call it a social lubricant. Language is full of it.”

Can anyone apologize so much?

Some people believe that there are downsides to apologizing. Years ago, Pantene, an American hair care brand, launched an “Sorry, Not Sorry” marketing campaign asking women not to apologize at work or at home.

Karina Schumann said that a person who apologizes frequently can be considered less assertive or less forceful. But it may be because some people are bad at apologizing effectively. She said that “apologizing lightly” without any real meaning can lead people to start ignoring your “apologies”.

Morris Schweitzer, a professor at the Wharton School, says there isn’t enough research to determine whether someone might apologize too much, but he believes that apologizing too often can indicate that someone lacks confidence because you’re asking for more feedback.

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“I think an apology is a kind of tool that shows concern for others,” he said. “It demonstrates perspective taking. When we are trying to build or repair a relationship, an apology can be very effective.”

So when should someone say “I’m sorry”?

Deborah Tannen describes apology as “one of the most powerful weapons” to use in argument and to overcome conflict.

When done well, an effective apology can repair broken relationships. People who apologize most often and effectively are seen as warm and ethical by their romantic partners.

Schweitzer said the apology must include a “pledge of penance” to repair the damage. Schweitzer said that when hospital systems change their policies to allow doctors to apologize to patients or their families for a medical error, the number of lawsuits against the hospital decreases.

“If an apology is done well, it creates a separation between the person of the past and the person of today,” said Schweitzer. “That promise to change is a really important component of an effective apology.”

And when you apologize, accept responsibility for what went wrong and don’t make excuses.

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“Apologies are seen as expressions that are really insulting, stressful and difficult to deliver,” Schumann said. “But after we showed them, we felt great.” Sorry. / Translated by Paola Bonelli

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