Loading...
The Daily Dose Blog The Daily Dose Blog Home

Truly Sorry? Apologies Differ by Gender

By Rich_Maloof Jul 26, 2012 4:40PM

Photo: Kevin Winter/NBCUniversal/GettyWhat was it about Kristen Stewart’s apology yesterday that felt so genuine? Apologies from public figures usually come across like they’ve been written by a publicist and read off a teleprompter. But within 24 hours of a tabloid exposing the tryst she had with married director Rupert Sanders, while in a longterm relationship herself with actor Robert Pattinson, Stewart spilled her heart in a mea culpa:

I'm deeply sorry for the hurt and embarrassment I've caused to those close to me and everyone this has affected. This momentary indiscretion has jeopardized the most important thing in my life, the person I love and respect the most, Rob. I love him, I love him, I'm so sorry.

It’s possible though cynical to think that Stewart, the highest paid actress in Hollywood, can afford the sharpest and fastest damage-control specialists on the market. But her statement doesn’t feel crafted. It shows humility and respect, which are important elements in an effective apology and qualities that the 22-year-old actress doesn’t appear to give up easily. Psychologists also identify four basic motives for apologizing — to salvage a relationship, to diminish another’s pain, to escape punishment, and to relieve guilt — and in her statement Stewart captures the first two, more altruistic motives.

We’re not so accustomed to hearing female public figures asking for forgiveness, and it may be that men and women have different means and motivations for their apologies. Without defaulting to the conventional wisdom that men have to protect fragile egos, there’s an aspect to apologizing that implies defeat, which the more competitive male gender is less inclined to concede. Tiger Woods, Anthony Wiener, and Bill Clinton all had personas shaped by winning and success, and their late-coming, highly crafted apologies lacked authenticity. They seemed more driven by those self-preserving, secondary motives of escaping punishment and guilt. It felt like none of them would have apologized had he never been caught, implying the regret originated in being exposed rather than in feeling bad.

One of few scientific studies on the psychology of female versus male apologies determined that men are less inclined to apologize because they have a different threshold for perceiving offensive behavior; that is, that they don’t always get what they’ve done wrong until someone slaps them upside the head for it. If true, the flipside benefit is that a man is also less likely to demand an apology from a woman, because he has the same high threshold for perceiving a misstep by her as apology-worthy.

Disparities between female and male brains may also impact how apologies are shaped and delivered. Men tend to have proportionally more white matter in their heads, indicating a thick web of connections that strengthen organizational skills, spatial relations, and problem solving. But women are understood to have greater connectivity between the left side of the brain, where logic and facts are mostly processed, and the right side in charge of non-linear thought like creativity and perception. The flow of signals between left and right may explain why women are generally better at connecting emotions with language.

That’s the strength in Stewart’s apology: a direct link between what she did and her begging expression of regret. It says nothing of the trustworthiness of one gender over another, but women seem to deliver a more convincing “I’m sorry” once the deed is done.

Photo: Kevin Winter/NBCUniversal/Getty

6Comments
Jul 30, 2012 2:46AM
avatar
Well, I'm not a vampire-show watching tween, so I couldnt care less
Jul 29, 2012 10:54PM
avatar
So what does the guy she was sleeping with have to say?
Jul 29, 2012 8:01AM
avatar

What erroneous drivel. Give me a break. Nothing but a gender-biased, subjective, diatribe.

It's nothing special, and rather a weak, plain-wrap Webster's apology.

Report
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
Categories
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?

inspire: live a better life

  • Cultura\Getty Images(Cultura\Getty Images)

    4 reasons journaling is good for you

    An entry a day might keep the doctor away (or at least the shrink).

  • Getty Images(Getty Images)

    Appreciating the Small Things in Life

    One woman's shout-outs to daily moments of joy — and how to cultivate them.

  • Getty Images(Getty Images)

    5 surprising ways to live longer

    Volunteering (and these other rituals) might be just as good as exercise when it comes to extending your life.

  • Petko Danov\E+\Getty Images(Petko Danov\E+\Getty Images)

    7 cures for a case of the Mondays

    Use these tricks to set a better tone for the rest of the week.

  • 30 things you learn in your 30s

    30 things that will (probably) happen in your 30s

    In September, I'll turn 38. I'm at the age now where, when people ask how old I am, it takes me a minute to remember. I don't know if that's because I've already been 37 different ages and it's hard to keep straight which one I am now, or if it's because I'm in denial, or if it's because I am going senile. Maybe a combination of all of the above. Regardless, my 30s have flown by and soon they will be but a memory. So, in an effort to preserve the memory I have left (or at least keep a record of it), and to celebrate what has been an amazing decade so far, here are 30 things that have happened to me in my 30s (and will probably happen to you too):

  • Woman jogging (Photo: Huffington Post)
  • Getty Images // Magazine

    Little ways to feel healthier and happier

    Our best health and fitness tips including the one move that tones all, berry news, and more.

  • Best places for fall foliage

    The 16 best places to see fall foliage

    Who just wants to stand around and watch the red and gold leaves slowly fall from their tree branches to the ground as we move from summer to fall? Instead, take in the changing seasons while you're on the move.

  • A woman meditating

    Getting to joy

    Here's some tips to get to happiness going forward in your life.

  • person doing puzzle (Courtesy of Newser)

    Older adults think better in the morning

    People 60 to 82 did best on cognitive tasks before 10:30am.

  • Lucille Ball

    5 timeless life lessons from 'I Love Lucy'

    Lucille Ball was born in 1911, and though we lost her long ago, her legacy as America's favorite redhead lives on through the timeless classic, "I Love Lucy." People of all generations still enjoy Lucy's antics as much as they did over 60 years ago when the show first premiered.

  • kids running in the ocean (Photo: Flickr user erwss)

    7 creative ways to collect summer memories

    Summer is coming to an end, and in a few weeks, kids will be forced to trade in their beach bags for backpacks. But just because the season is fading away doesn't mean the memories from the past few months have to disappear with it.

Loading...
about rich maloof
Loading...
buzzing now on msn living
Loading...
inspire videos
editor's picks
Loading...