Monday, April 1, 2013



I have been thinking about this story that I just heard on NPR:

To err is human.

So is refusing to apologize for those errors.

From toddlers and talk show hosts to preteens and presidents, we all know people who have done stupid, silly and evil things, then squared their jaws and told the world they've done nothing wrong.

Parents, educators and even public relations flacks have talked at length about the value of coming clean, and there is abundant research on the psychological value of apologizing. But psychologists recently decided to take a new tack: If so many people don't like to do it, there must be psychological value in not apologizing, too.

In a recent paper, researchers Tyler G. Okimoto, Michael Wenzel and Kyli Hedrick reported on what they've found happens in people's minds when they refuse to apologize. They find that parents who tell their kids that saying sorry will make them feel better have been telling kids the truth — but not the whole truth.

"We do find that apologies do make apologizers feel better, but the interesting thing is that refusals to apologize also make people feel better and, in fact, in some cases it makes them feel better than an apology would have," Okimoto said in an interview.

Okimoto surveyed 228 Americans and asked them to remember a time they had done something wrong. Most people remembered relatively trivial offenses, but some remembered serious offenses, including crimes such as theft.

The researchers then asked the people whether they had apologized, or made a decision not to apologize even though they knew they were in the wrong. And they also divided the people at random and asked some to compose an email where they apologized for their actions, or compose an email refusing to apologize.

In both cases, Okimoto said, refusing to apologize provided psychological benefits — which explains why people are so often reluctant to apologize.

The same thing happened when people were asked to imagine doing something wrong, and then imagine apologizing or refusing to apologize.

“When you refuse to apologize, it actually makes you feel more empowered. That power and control seems to translate into greater feelings of self-worth."

Ironically, Okimoto said, people who refused to apologize ended up with boosted feelings of integrity.

The researchers are not suggesting that refusing to apologize is a useful life strategy: Okimoto himself said he has little trouble apologizing. The interpersonal benefits of apologizing are huge, and an apology can renew bonds not only between people but also between countries.

Okimoto believes the research, in fact, may provide a clue on how best to get people to apologize. Our conventional approach, especially with kids, is to force people to apologize. But if people are reluctant to apologize because apologies make them feel threatened, coercion is unlikely to help — that is, if a sincere apology is hoped for.

Support and love, by contrast, may be a more effective way to counter the feelings of threat involved in an apology.

The next time junior — or your partner — does something wrong, pass on the stare and try a hug.

Thoughts on this?

I recently had the misfortune of dealing with a new jackass client -- an alleged professional that was rude and discourteous on not one, but two occassions.  I ultimately ended up confronting her and semi-politely telling her everything she did wrong (long story, I'll spare you the details).  She was silently seething, and told me it felt like I was "scolding" her.  CORRECTAMUNDO!!!!  I told her that wasn't my intention, that I just wanted her to know that "a little courtesy would go a long way" in any future dealings we had.  Needless to say, our meeting was uncomfortable at best, and we were both happy to be done with each other.  Dealing with people can be so EXHAUSTING!!!!!!

Later on I emailed her with the info she requested, and I apologized that our meeting had started out on the wrong foot.  Needless to say, she did NOT not return the apology.  ARGH!!!!!!  Asshole.  I was just trying to admit that I was part of the problem, and that I probably could have handled our encounter better.  It would have been nice if she acknowledged some wrongdoing too.  @#$!%^!@$^*&%$!@ Whatever. The whole stupid event made me regret that I made an apology, and maybe next time I won't bother trying to rise above and do the right thing.  Blargh.



Lorena said...

Before, i'd rather die than apologize.
Now, i can say i am sorry and just keep it going like nothing happened. SOmetimes i think my lips say the words and my brain ignores it. Hmmm maybe i dont really mean it.

Felicia said...

Have you ever known someone who apologizes too much though? It's like they apologize for trivial things that mean nothing. I used to think these were "nice" people but I eventually came around to thinking they are mentally unstable people pleasers at any cost.

Anonymous said...

Burn her house to the ground! LOL!
I guess I'm not very mature.

The Savage said...

I don't necessarily apologize when I screw up. I acknowledge the wrong doing and own up to it. I try not to give an excuse because there usually isn't one.
On the other hand if I hurt someone unintentionally I will apologize profusely.

Kana said...

The level of social awareness and sensitivity varies from person to person - I hate that so frequently you have to find out that a given person's not gonna meet you halfway by going halfway and then they just leave you hanging there. And it's crazy, people who ARE socially aware are not necessarily socially sensitive - they know, they just don't care. Sociopaths, I say. Or, as you so succinctly said, Assholes.

Stephanie said...

What The Savage said!

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Maegan Tintari said...

oh man. I wish I was there to witness it! I would put bets on who it was {some sort of meat in a can maybe} but you said "new client" so I'm probably wrong, lol

I'm happy though that I'm not the only one who decided to tell it like it is... and I apologized too.

ajg-jane said...

No surprise the NEW and RUDE didn't admit she started it. I make it a habit not to apologize if I'm responding (rudely)to someone's bad attitude. When they apologize - I accept.

Regine Karpel said...

Interesting post. Something that made me think.
Thanks for the inspiration!

Alisa said...

You can feel good knowing in the end that you are the better person!!

BonBon Rose Girls Kristin said...

That's lame. Why can't jack arses see beyond the tips of their own noses?

Elle Sees said...

that sucks!!! if the person is a bitch, and i did nothing wrong, no apologies from me. i admit if i was wrong, but if not, nada!!

Kristine said...

Being Canadian I tend to over apologize. I'll apologize to mannequins when I bump into them. If someone is a jerk or doesn't acknowledge the apology I am seething inside and am yelling ( in my head) "I'm sorry. THAT YOU"RE AN ASSHOLE!!!" Good for you for pointing out that this person was rude and then being the bigger person by trying to make things more comfortable. She is obviously a troll.

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Trissta said...

I went through a whole really bad relationship thing with this kind of stuff. I ended up apologizing to the jerk because I needed it for me. I wasn't the raving bitch that came out when I drove all the way to LA (12 hours) to see him and he ditched me the morning after he paid for my hotel room. All bad. He was definitely in the wrong and had the worst weak-ass apology ever... I handled it bad and ended up apologizing months later, but still, to this day I feel horrible about the way I reacted. I know it was a justified reaction... It just wasn't ME.

I apologize a lot. It's easier to ask forgiveness than to ask for permission. It's my motto.

Much Love,