56. Your Love/Hate Relationship with Apologies

Saying, “sorry” is great, except when it’s not. An apology says you value the relationship, you have learned something and the offense will not happen again (or at least making efforts to do so). So why do sooooo many apologies end up feeling all wrong?


On this episode of Crina and Kirsten Get to Work our hosts delve into apologizing.  You may love an apology or you may hate an apology, but unless you are perfect (and if you think you are, you can stop reading right now – :-)), an apology is an important part of any relationship, including workplace relationships.

Crina hates hearing the words, “I am sorry.”  She hates over apologizing, shitty apologies, particularly those apologies used like a get out of jail free card.  Kirsten loves the opportunity an apology offers and how a real apology opens the door to further conversation.

Apologies at work build trust, build team and show humility. An apology says you value the relationship, you have learned something and the offense will not happen again (or at least making efforts to do so)

Gender Difference in Apologizing

Like many things, there are differences when it comes to apologies between men and women,  Women Really Do Apologize More Than Men. Here’s Why (and It Has Nothing to Do With Men Refusing to Admit Wrongdoing) | Inc.com.  

A series of studies found that women apologize more than men because they report committing more offenses than men.  The studies suggest that men apologize less frequently than women because they have a higher threshold for what constitutes offensive behavior. “It takes a more serious offense for men to think of an apology as deserved,” Dr. Karina Schumann, one of the study’s researchers, said in an email. In another study, Dr. Schumann and her colleagues gave men and women various hypothetical offenses to commit. Men rated the offenses as less severe and less deserving of an apology than women. “These findings supported our suspicion that men apologize less often because they are less likely to think they’ve offended anyone,” Dr. Schumann said.  Why women apologize more than men: gender differences in thresholds for perceiving offensive behaviorIn other words, women are more willing to see an offense and apologize more often.

The question of women’s apologies is a hot topic.  Some people feel that women should stop apologizing, while others think we should stop pathologizing apologies.  Deborah Tannen, communications author, says, maybe we should stop stigmatizing apologies.

No, You Don’t Have to Stop Apologizing (Published 2019)

Telling women to apologize less isn’t about empowerment. It’s about shame. – The Washington Post  Crina and Kirsten are in the camp that you should apologize if you want to – it is up to you – and no pathologized, demonizing or stigmatizing – and apology to add to your power rather than take away from it.

The Gift of Apologies

Apologies offer a gift to the person making the apology, a gift to the person to whom the apology is made and a gift to the relationship.  Apologies can create better relationships in the workplace.

Elements of an Apology

  1. According to ​The 6 elements of an effective apology, according to science, the elements of apology are as follows:
  2. Expression of regret
  3. Explanation of what went wrong
  4. Acknowledgment of responsibility
  5. Declaration of repentance
  6. Offer of repair
  7. Request for forgiveness

What Makes a Good Apology According to Harriet Lerner

  1. No buts, a “but” undercuts your apology.
  2. Focus on your acts not the other person’s feelings – what did you do and what was your part
  3. Make amends, whether you can return or replace something or make best efforts so that you will not do what you did again
  4. Don’t overdo an apology – to Crina’s point at the beginning
    • Don’t take too much responsibility
    • Don’t make it about you
    • Stay on point
  5. No blame to the other person
  6. No repeat performance – change behavior (see amends)
  7. Your apology should not silence the other party – an apology is a great time to listen
  8. Don’t make an apology for your own benefit – if someone does not want to hear from you, stop.
  9. A true apology does not ask the other person for anything 

What an Apology Does for Us

  1. The best thing about an apology is what it does for us.  We grow in ourselves.
  2. We maintain our integrity about how we live in the world.  We build self-esteem and self respect by living our values.
  3. And here is the Podcast from Brene Brown and Harriet Lerner that inspired this episode.

Harriet Lerner and Brené – I’m Sorry: How To Apologize & Why It Matters

Why we’ve been saying ‘sorry’ all wrong – BBC Worklife