I know this isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but apparently. . . women apologize with much more frequency than men.
Doubt me if you must, but I grew up watching a lot of The Magic School Bus (FYI, that’s getting a reboot), so here are a few studies and articles to back me up:
- The New York Times: Why Women Apologize and Should Stop
- Scientific American: Women Apologize More Frequently Than Men Do
- Live Science: Study Reveals Why Women Apologize So Much
Though I had read a few opinion pieces to this effect a while ago, they sort of went in one ear and out the other. I never really thought about how gender-skewed apologies applied to my own life until recently, when a friend challenged me to count how many times I apologized in one day.
I lost track somewhere in the mid-40s. FORTY TIMES IN ONE DAY?!?!? Really, Jenny?!?
Apparently, I apologize for everything. I apologize for things that are not my fault. I apologize before making a suggestion. I apologize when I disagree with someone, or if I don’t know an answer off the top of my head, or for cancelling plans because I have the stomach flu. I once apologized for apologizing too much.
So, we know that women apologize more often than men. We even have some insight as to why we apologize more than men. . . and unsurprisingly, the answers vary by opinion.
We also know that to a certain extent, over-apologizing can be detrimental to a woman’s career, relationships, etc. I undermine my own authority when I apologize for my ideas before I’ve even presented them. I make my friends question the meaningfulness of my apologies when I toss them around as easily as I do Harry Potter references. I could go on, but the articles I’ve linked to have already effectively outlined the dilemmas of excessive apologies.
The question is, what are we going to do about it?
There are a lot of articles with answers ranging from “Stop Shaming Women for Apologizing Too Much” to “Ladies, Stop Apologizing!” but I didn’t find an answer I particularly loved until the other day, when I happened across an Instagram post.
Here it is:
Terrible grammar and punctuation aside (I know, I know, but the English Major in me can’t help it). . . this is pretty brilliant.
To be clear – it doesn’t help with the passive-aggressive sorry (“Sorry to bother you, but would you mind sending that email?” which really reads: “Hey! Send that email I’ve asked you for a bajillion times and needed three days ago!”). Nor is it a get-out-of-jail free card. . . because sometimes you will royally screw up, and making a heartfelt apology is the right thing to do.
But as a HUGE fan of positivity over negativity, I think the suggestion outlined in my friend’s post accomplishes most of what we need it to: acknowledging the overuse of apologies, offering a healthier alternative, and establishing space to still thank people for their patience and understanding in moments when a genuine apology is necessary. Plus – it’s pretty solid life advice regardless of your gender.
So, my fellow poetic, noble, land-mermaids (will the real Parks & Rec fans please stand up?), the next time you feel the need to say “sorry” for something you shouldn’t, I challenge you to turn it into a moment of gratitude instead!