Why Men Need to Say Sorry More

What if women are correct about how much the average human should apologize?

At the moment, studies indicate that women apologize more than men. This will not be surprising to anyone who has ever been in an office setting. The reason they do so, however, is thought to be because “women have a lower threshold for what constitutes offensive behavior.”

That certainly seems to be the case today, going by recent incidents regarding male apologies. There was great debate over whether Trump would apologize for telling Putin he believed Russia over American Intelligence regarding Russian meddling in the 2016 election, an act many people regarded as tantamount to treason. Republican Ohio Governor John Kashich declared, “I think he’s going to have to come out and say ‘I made a terrible mistake, I’m sorry I did it.” He… did not. And The Cut just ran an article entitled, “When Men Decide It’s Time to Say I’m Sorry” regarding the wave of apologies women received after the #MeToo movement.

Meanwhile, a woman’s tweet on Trump’s Helsinki conference with Putin reads, “I deeply apologize for all the upper casing but I am so pissed about this blatant treason.”

A man’s idea of an action worthy of apology seems to be “committing treason, or destroying a woman’s life or career.” A woman’s idea of an action worthy of apology is “being upset about those actions.”

There are endless articles on how women can curb their instinct towards apologizing. Barbie is, right at the moment, doing a vlog on how girls can stop apologizing. Odyssey declares apologizing “a bad habit that takes a beating at women’s confidence.” Forbes will coach women on “3 Steps to Stop Saying Sorry So Much.”

It is true that sometimes women are very quick to apologize for actions that really aren’t their fault at all. But isn’t that better than the alternative, where an apology is seen as a sign of defeat to be doled out only in the most extreme circumstances?

That’s certainly the sense you’d get from books like the “guy’s guide to life” Real Men Don’t Apologize. Or when men like Elon Musk refuse to apologize to people who saved the lives of children (he called one of the people who rescued Thai boys from the cave a pedophile) except when forced to, prompting the New York Post to note, “Musk isn’t sorry and nothing is ever his fault.”

Trump seems to have played heavily into this mentality, claiming that “we are not going to apologize for America.” Well, okay, but America does commit some harmful acts, even under the best Presidents. The trail of tears, for instance, was not one of our better moments.

That’s to say nothing of Trump’s personal willingness to apologize. A former official told Politco that “he’s not into apologizing.” Which seems true, as he very rarely does so. Even after the pussy tape leaked, when asked if he apologized to Melania, he remarked that “there was nothing to apologize for.”

“A mentality where we’re unwilling to apologize ever is, frankly, terrifying.”

A mentality where we’re unwilling to apologize ever is, frankly, terrifying. It’s not good for anyone, and certainly not the people living their lives with that mentality. It requires that we either never make a mistake ever—which seems like a lot of pressure—or adopt a deluded world view where we pretend that we’re infallible despite evidence to the contrary. In other words, you either have to be perfect or develop the ability to ignore all evidence to contrary. To play on an old maxim, people who are unwilling to apologize are either Gods or monsters. I have not yet met any Gods, but I’ve met plenty of monsters who thought they were Gods.

When we apologize, we’d accepting that other people have wants and desires that may stand in opposition to our own. To do so is simply to acknowledge that other people have an internal life. We might be wrong in the assumptions we make about it—the person you apologized to for sitting down in front of them actually had no desire to take that chair—and that might be irritating. But the instinct to attempt to put yourself in others shoe’s is a fundamentally good one.


I’m not the first person to say this but it drives me nuts

A post shared by Mari Andrew (@bymariandrew) on

Statements like the one in Forbes, about how people will take you less seriously if you apologize too often—well, why? Caring about others so much that you attempt to empathize with them is a good quality, not a bad one. As the illustrator Mari Andrew points out in this cartoon on the topic, “why aren’t sensitivity, grace, and tenderness the qualities that help me advance?”

They should be. They’re just not qualities men have adopted. As such, they’ve often been seen as a sign of weakness, when, in fact, considering other’s comfort is a sign that you’re a thoughtful person. And a person who can admit they make mistakes, and grow from them, and be stronger in the future. That’s the definition of strength.

The real thing to be sorry for is that more people haven’t learned that, yet.

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