Relationship expert, Dr. Pam Spurr, tells us that men loathe apologies and would rather just explain what happened than admit any wrongdoing on their part. The route of these actions comes from his avoidance of feeling weak and ashamed. She offers the advice for women to accept this fact and give up on expecting an apology, because it’s just not within his nature. As she says, “You’ll end up (more) sorry you tried to squeeze that sorry out of him.”
The majority of studies agree with Dr. Spurr, in that women apologize more often than men. This may come as no surprise, but the fact that some studies suggest men are just as likely to apologize when they believe they’re wrong, might be. A study from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, claims that men apologize just as often as women. The statistic for the likelihood of receiving an apology is approximately 81 percent for both sexes. So why does it seem women are giving the majority of apologies?
According to these studies, it actually has nothing to do with a man’s reluctance to say the words, but rather a different understanding of what calls for an apology. To prove this theory, the study asked participants to comment on several scenarios, one being waking a friend up at night, causing them to lose sleep, and do poorly on an interview the next day. What the researchers found is that the majority of men did not see the need to apologize for such actions, while the women did.
Men are not just more lenient about certain actions when it comes to hurting other people’s feelings, but also when they are on the receiving end. Studies show men are less likely to feel they’ve been the victim of a wrongful act, thus deserving of an apology. Women, in general, are more aware of people’s feelings, so it is not surprising they are more concerned with how their actions affect others. Women are also more invested in maintaining harmony in relationships, and an apology is a great tool towards accomplishing this.
It is important to note, that while women may see an apology as a means of maintaining healthy relationships, not all apologies are equal. What I am referring to is a group of studies that have suggested that men and women value the ideology of an apology much more than the actual thing. We seem to overestimate the effectiveness of an apology. With this in mind, I think it is more important to know how to apologize, then it is to understand why.
The Simple Anatomy of an Apology
Recognizing how men and women view apologies will help us get along better. Men are not insensitive to feelings, but just less sensitive to feelings in general. Men and women perceive situations differently, so in order to create a meaningful apology, we have to understand what makes up the basic composition of one.
There is a physiological side to an apology, in that the right ear is more likely to be receptive to the meaning behind the words. Studies show that when a couple is angry, speaking towards the right ear will give the best chance of being heard, understood, and forgiven.
Rather than assume that your partner can read your mind when you are hurt, psychologists recommend for couples to communicate how they are feeling with each other. As we have learned from these studies, it is not that men don’t care, but rather he may not be interpreting his actions as particularly hurtful. Don’t let yourself fester over something he’s done. Tell him how you feel, allowing the reconciliation process to begin.
Understanding & Forgiveness
An apology is the first step to reconciling most any problem in a relationship. “I was wrong and I’m sorry” should be the entry point to the discussion. These words should validate the person’s feelings, which also means taking ownership of your actions. It’s important that the apology not be taken as mere words, but as an understanding of what you did that was wrong. Apologies usually lead to a series of negotiations to make amends, hopefully followed by forgiveness.
An apology is not a magical phrase that makes all wrongs, suddenly right. It is, however, a good first step towards learning to communicate hurt feelings with each other, which is the key to finding harmony in all romantic, opposite sex relationships.