Steve Martin once said, “An apology? Bah! Disgusting! Cowardly! Beneath the dignity of any gentleman, however wrong he might be.”
Well we’re sorry but it appears gentlemen do apologize. A new study shows that men are as likely to apologize as women, they’re just less likely to believe a particular incident is apology-worthy.
“Men apologize less frequently than women because they have a higher threshold for what constitutes offensive behavior,” said researchers Karina Schumann and Michael Ross in Psychological Science. In essence, men will apologize willingly if they think they’ve done something worth apologizing for—they’re just less likely to believe their offensive behavior warrants an apology.
The study asked participants to describe three instances that day in which they’d “apologized to someone or did something to someone else that might have deserved an apology.” Participants were also asked to describe three incidents in which “someone else apologized to you, or did something to you that might have deserved an apology.”
Results showed that while women had a higher frequency of saying sorry, if the threshold of perceived offense was taken into account, both genders were pretty much equal. Both men and women apologized for about 81% of their transgressions.
Researchers explained the initial frequency difference by saying that women “are more focused on the experiences of other people and on maintaining harmony in their relationships,” or that “men have a higher threshold for both physical and social pain.”
I’m not sure how much I buy that, necessarily, but I do agree with their conclusion that the disconnect produces “unfortunate consequences for mixed-gender interactions.” In situations where women consider men insensitive (and men consider women overly sensitive) researchers suggest that both genders take a step back and compare perceptions of the situation in question.
Terribly sorry, Mr. Martin, but it seems apologizing is something manly after all.