The score was 7 to 1, in favor of women, when I gave up. The gap would have been insurmountable to men even if they’d given a shit about any of this, which they didn’t, because they didn’t know what I was up to. I’m no scientist, and this is not a respected psychological journal. 7 to 1, in favor of women, seemed a representative enough sample for my needs, and the needs of my readers. Besides, I grew bored with the whole idea of it, and wanted to move on to other things, like complaining to my boss about the sudden disappearance of Pop Tarts from the vending machine.
Anyway, so women are better than men. At apologizing. Duh. Who doesn’t know that?
“Tell me something I don’t know,” I hear you saying.
Okay, here’s something I don’t know: Whom can we blame for this?
The Experiment: I started counting the number of times women apologized for – get this – being on the other side of a windowless, unopened door in the stairwell at work when I happened to have opened it. I also counted the number of times men apologized. My reason was to confirm one of the more common complaints I have been hearing from women over the past year or so, starting with the complaint aired by a young poet I can’t find with google right now, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. She said something like, “Why do I have to apologize all the time?”
I remember thinking to myself, “Yeah, why do you have to apologize all the time? I didn’t tell you to do that. Stop it. It really is annoying.”
If men said anything at all when I happened to push the door open right at the moment they were pulling the door open, they said either “oops” or “excuse me.” But the most common, comfortable, and reassuring responses from men were either nothing at all or a grunt.
Man to man, a grunt is one of life’s most satisfying affirmations.
I have never told a woman she ought to apologize for things she had nothing to do with. Or for that matter, for anything that isn’t worthy of an apology. Such as happening to be on the other side of a windowless and closed door at the moment somebody else opens it. Neither have I heard any other man say such a thing. If I did, I’d punch him in the face, because people apologizing for things they shouldn’t apologize for annoy the bejeezus out of me.
Well, I have the answer: Who is it that tells our young women they need to apologize for things they had no part in causing?
Other women, evidently.
Ladies and gentlemen, from “No One Understands You And What To Do About It,” I give you Heidi (that’s a woman’s name, right?) Grant Halvorson’s advice on how to win trust from others: Convey empathy with a superfluous apology.
One particularly effective, but often overlooked, method is what psychologists call the superfluous apology – saying “I’m sorry,” not as a way of accepting blame, but as a way of expressing regret over another person’s hardship. (In other words, apologizing for something you clearly didn’t cause.)
I think I know my limitations when it comes to advice (nobody ever listens to me), so rather than give advice, let me just leave you with this little thought experiment: What sort of person is going to feel comforted, affirmed, or turned on by a superfluous apology?
Now, is that the sort of person you want in your life?
Right. The superfluous apology. Stop doing that.