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Sorry ladies, but you know it’s true…

By on August 14, 2014

For us women, apologizing means something very different to what it seems to mean to men. But what exactly are the differences?

According to research, it’s not so much that women are more likely to apologize if they feel that they have done something wrong. In fact, men and women are equally likely to apologize when they believe they have something to apologize for. The difference, according to the research is that women are more likely to think they have done something worth apologizing for!

Research confirms that women tend to apologize much more frequently than men do, but there’s a curious twist as to why this is the case. Via

This research opens up a whole area for debate, and while there are several research studies on the effect of apologies on the psychological well-being of both the apologizer and the one apologized to, under various conditions, the final verdict: whether to apologize or not, is unclear.

We will first discuss the some of the relevant research, then suggest some common sense guidelines for when and how to apologize and what to do afterwards!

First it’s important to know that apologizing for a genuine hurt or grievance you have caused is a good thing. It allows the aggrieved to forgive, and begins to relieve the transgressor of feelings of guilt. If you have genuinely done something to hurt or offend another person, an apology is always going to be worthwhile.

See the article below for the research supporting this conclusion:

Apology changed my life. I believe it can change yours, as well. Almost like magic, apology has the power to repair harm, mend relationships, soothe wounds and heal broken hearts. The Power of Apology | Psychology Today


However, now we begin to get into the complications. For example, a refusal to apologize can actually boost self-esteem for the offender. We have all seen this happen, and probably experienced it, when someone has done something to hurt us and not only refused to apologize, but added insult to injury by suggesting it was our fault. See the study below:

Obviously this tactic of refusing to apologize should not be used where there was genuine offense. However, where you didn’t do anything that requires an apology, so there is no guilt to deal with on your part, bear in mind that apologizing just because it is expected may damage your self esteem. See the study below by researchers in Australia, published in the European Journal of Social Psychology:

In two empirical studies, we examined the unexplored psychological consequences that follow from a harm-doer’s explicit refusal to apologize. Results showed that the act of refusing to apologize resulted in greater self-esteem than not refusing to apologize. Moreover, apology refusal also resulted in increased feelings of power/control and value integrity, both of which mediated the effect of refusal on self-esteem. Refusing to apologize can have psychological benefits (and we issue no mea culpa for this research finding) – Okimoto – 2012 – European Journal of Social Psychology

But here is where it gets really interesting. Because apologies not only begin to heal wounds, they also increase direct and indirect compliance. Apologizing to someone makes it more likely that they will do something for you in the future. In fact the research below included an apology for failing to do a favor for someone. Even this apology increased compliance in the recipient of the apology.

In case that slid by you, here’s what happens:

  1. You approach Fred.
  2. You ask Fred to do you a favor.
  3. Fred says no.
  4. You approach John.
  5. You apologize to John for not doing a favor for him, possibly a favor he never expected.
  6. You ask John to do you a favor.
  7. He says yes.

So you can actually use a strategic apology to win a favor. Just for the apology! It seems that the recipient of the apology for a favor not done accepts that in lieu of the favor itself. It is as if you actually did the favor you are apologizing for not doing! The other person therefore becomes indebted for the imaginary favor and wishes to reciprocate with a real favor!

Here’s a link to the research:

So if you are going to apologize for something you didn’t do, or that the other person didn’t think you did, remember it may win you a favor from the other person! This is particularly interesting for women based on the original research, because remember if you are apologizing to a man, chances are he didn’t think you did anything wrong!

We are going to end this exploration of the gentle are of apology with a word about status. People of lower social status are expected to apologize more. This may mean that if you apologize too much, you may lose your status. We all know people, often women, who seem to apologize for everything. This can send entirely the wrong message, especially to clients who need to regard us as the authority in the hypnosis session!

The flip side of this coin is that as long as you maintain your authority, your apology carries much more weight! As long as you maintain your authority with your hypnosis clients, when you do apologize for genuine offense (or even apologize for not doing favors for them, to get a free favor in return!), you will have much more apology impact!

We examine the effectiveness of apology following a workplace offense, as influenced by the achieved or ascribed status (i.e. professional status or gender) of the parties involved. Via

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