A recent headline on the Smithsonian website caught my attention:
People Who Don’t Apologize Probably Feel Better Than You
The article described a research study where people were ask to recall their “wrongs” and were then given the opportunity to send an email to the wronged party and either apologize, or refuse to apologize.
Those who sent the email refusing to apologize felt much better than those who confessed and took the blame or responsibility.
The researchers explained that refusing to apologize made people feel empowered. The feeling of empowerment then translated into greater self worth.
Here’s my problem with this whole thing …
Apologizing is not about you! If you think it is, you’re just self centered!
which is probably why those who refused to apologize felt greater self worth and empowerment.
Deciding to provide an apology for your actions requires you to first decide whether what you did was right and appropriate, or wrong and inappropriate.
If what you did was right and appropriately handled, you shouldn’t apologize– even if the other party feels badly about what you did. If a teacher grades a student’s paper and the student only gets 10 percent of the questions correct and fails the test, the teacher shouldn’t apologize. If a supervisor appropriately calls an employee aside and tactfully corrects the employees behavior, the supervisor shouldn’t have to apologize if the employee is embarrassed by the correction.
However, if what you’ve done is wrong or inappropriately handled, you don’t deserve to feel empowered or to have your self worth boosted by not apologizing. I’ve known people who feel this way and they may feel empowered, but they have no friends, their spouses are distant, and their children avoid them. I hope their empowerment and self worth are there for them when they’re in trouble or need someone, because no one else will be.
So when your wrong or you’ve handled something inappropriately …APOLOGIZE!
Stop worrying about yourself and how you’ll feel, and do the right thing for the person you’ve wronged and your relationship, here’s why:
1. Apologizing restores what you took away from the other person when you wronged them–THEIR self worth and power.
2. The person you’ve wronged will most likely feel better physically and emotionally when you apologize.
In fact, research shows that those who receive a sincere apology exhibit lowered blood pressure and heart rater after receiving one.
3. Apologizing shows empathy, caring, and respect for the other person.
4. Apologizing allows the other party to empathize with you as the wrong-doer.
5. When you apologize, you set a positive example and others will be more willing to admit their mistakes and apologize when they’re in the wrong.
6. Your relationships will grow closer due to this deeper level of self disclosure.
It’s easy to talk about things when you’re right, but when you admit your mistakes and flaws, you demonstrate a deeper level of trust in and caring for the other person.
6. Showing your flaws and vulnerability by apologizing will make you a more likable person.
People don’t like or trust “perfect” people. When you apologize, you admit and reveal your likable imperfection.
7. Once you’ve apologized, you’ll no longer seem like a threat to the other party.
When you’ve wronged someone, they’ll constantly be on guard for the next attack. When you apologize, you bring their guard back down.
8. Apologizing provides justice to the other party.
When they remain feeling wronged, they remain angry and focused on the past. An apology can allow the other party to let go of anger and move forward.
9. Apologizing brings healing to a relationship.
When you refuse to apologize, you allow the wrong to poison your relationship. The wrong leads to “pay back”, negative (or no) communication, grudges, and resentment, which will eventually destroy the relationship.
10. Apologizing is often the first step you can take toward asking for (and receiving) forgiveness, which we all need every now and again.
Next week, we’ll tackle how to (and how not to) apologize!