Some might assume that an apologetic woman is weaker than an unapologetic man. However, a psychologist has since revealed that women use ‘sorry’ as a strategic language tool.
We’re living in a world rife with gender stereotypes. Some of them are unfairly forced upon us, like the woman who was named “Baby Hater” at her office because she didn’t feel comfortable holding a colleague’s newborn (women who aren’t overly maternal must be abnormal monsters, didn’t you know?) Others seem to have some weight behind them, and can give an interesting insight into why and how we’ve developed as a race.
For example, you have noticed that women seem to find it much easier to apologise than men, the latter of whom are often characterised as being more stoic and less able to communicate their emotions.
However, while some might assume this stereotype paints women as the weaker sex, more subservient and happier to admit their flaws, psychologists have now confirmed that this behaviour actually reflects a great emotional strength and strategic thinking.
You see, female friendship is a very powerful thing. Indeed, research has repeatedly shown that having a close-knit female network can help relieve stress, act as a form of free therapy, offer a support system, and even further your career. Therefore, it’s important for women to preserve these bonds and ensure that an argument doesn’t ruffle feathers enough to disrupt the relationship long-term. This is where the apologies come in.
Amanda Rose Ph.D. writes for Psychology Today and explains how important the ability to say sorry is in a female dynamic: “Apologies are social glue in girls’ and women’s friendships. They are not necessarily admissions of guilt or wrong-doing (although they can be). In most cases, these apologies have less to do with determining who is at fault and more to do with making sure hurt feelings are mended and the relationship is intact.”
Rose continues to look at how boys and girls build relationships, theorising that because girls often spend time in smaller, more cooperative social groups whereas boys are more likely to interact in larger groups in competitive sports and games, which creates a dialogue that discourages them from being vulnerable.
She continues: “Girls’ and boys’ conversational styles reflect these differences. The way girls’ talk to each other is generally more collaborative and accommodating compared to boys. Among boys, there is more jockeying back and forth and more ‘trash talking’ (often, but not always, in a good natured way). So boys tend to develop a self-protective interactional style and to avoid showing or admitting to weaknesses.”
It is thought that these learnings as children are carried into adulthood, with women offering each other apologies easily and often exchanging them as a symbol that they both value the relationship. In fact, while many of us may not be as truly, deeply sorry as we would be if something terrible had happened, apologising helps keep s the bonds between us sweet and shows we care.
For men, however, an apology is usually only needed if a situation feels serious, and as Rose says will often be met with a simple “OK” with no counter apology to be seen.
Essentially, it might seem like women apologise more because they’re happy to roll over and accept defeat, but in actual fact it’s an astute tool that strengthens our relationships and therefore positively benefits our growth. Why aren’t women running the world, again?
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