twitter facebook stumble upon rss

The Science of Saying 'I'm Sorry'

sign up for the momlogic newsletter Tweet This

Dr. Michelle Golland: Apologies are a necessity in life. Our willingness to repair conflicts is onemeasure of our relationships' depth.After all, life is filled with disagreements and issues, whether they be with people at our workplace, our children's school or friends and family. How do we apologize to those in our lives? We want to do it successfully, in order to foster forgiveness, repair hurt feelings and truly resolve whatever the initial conflict may have been.

man giving flowers to woman

Turns out, there's a science to apologizing. The findings from a new set of studies help us define what makes a "good" apology, and also reveal how different types of people respond to different types of apologies. The key, apparently, is to consider who'll be receiving the "I'm sorry," so that the mea culpa will be most effective.

Researchers have identified three distinct types of apologies:

1) The Offer of Compensation
This type of apology involves offering some type of concrete action in order to restore the balance in the relationship. The action could be something tangible (such as replacing your neighbor's window because your child smashed it with his baseball), or it could be the promise to improve your behavior (such as offering to spend more time with your spouse because he's been feeling neglected).

2) The Expression of Empathy
This type of apology involves recognizing the pain or anger you have caused the other person, and then expressing real concern for his or her feelings. The love and care you express in your apology should make the recipient feel understood and valued. This type of apology restores trust that may have been violated; we often employ it in personal relationships. It's the type of apology we as parents are trying to get our kids to do all the time!

3) Acknowledgment of Violated Rules/Norms
This type of apology basically consists of declaring wrongdoing for breaking a group or family's code of behavior. The apology goes something like this: "I didn't just let myself down, I let down the entire medical profession" (which is how someone like Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson's doctor at the time of his death, should apologize).

Researchers also identified the three distinct personality types that respond best to the above types of apologies:

1) "Independent Self-Concept"
These people see themselves as autonomous and individualistic. Because they are mostly focused on their own feelings and rights, they experience transgressions as a personal injury or betrayal.These people generally respond best to offers of compensation.

2) "Relational Self-Concept"
These people (most commonly women) are focused on maintaining and strengthening their relationships. Mutual respect and the rebuilding of trust are paramount to them, so apologies that include an expression of empathy and understanding will be most effective.

3) "Collective Self-Concept"
These people see themselves as part of a group, not as individuals. They value the bonds and rules that govern the organization with which they most identify (i.e., their company, church or family). With these people, apologies that acknowledge wrongdoing would best restore your status within the group and earn you the respect of the other group members.

When formulating an apology, remember to ask yourself: "Who am I apologizing to, and what do they need from my apology?" What troubled them the most about your transgression? Was it perceived as a personal injury, the betrayal of the relationship or the betrayal of a group "code"?

As a parent, I know that my children require different types of apologies. My son is ragingly independent and definitely perceives transgressions as a personal wound, whereas my daughter values relationships deeply and feels soothed by apologies that include empathy and understanding.

next: Dr. Martens Meet Hello Kitty
16 comments so far | Post a comment now
click to download full movies September 11, 2010, 8:13 PM

Well, I agree with what you wrote, but not with all of it. Regardless, it’s all good material. Thanks!

Hair Color For Yellow Skin Tone November 25, 2010, 12:08 AM

Events in the past may be roughly divided into those which probably never happened and those which do not matter.

buy valium December 1, 2010, 2:48 PM

Generally I do not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so, Excellent post!

Pictures Of Wedding Gift Wrapping Ideas December 11, 2010, 8:53 AM

If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself alone. A man should keep his friendships in constant repair.

diete forum December 27, 2010, 5:45 AM

I was beeing scouring the Internet for this info and just wanted to thank u for the post. BTW, just off topic, how can i find a version of this theme? – Thanks

Carol James December 29, 2010, 4:01 AM

Wow! Thank you! I always wanted to write on my website something like that. Can I include a part of your post to my website?

John,Thanks for the praise of Half Moon Bay Kayak Co. with the indian summer going strong around here now is better than ever to kayak around HMB. From a rental or a guided trip around Pillar Point Harbor to our 15 mile paddle to San Gregorio State Beach along the San Mateo Coast, we will be running strong through the winter. Love the website and thank you for helping promote local business and local economy. Come by and take a Full Moon paddle on us and see for your self why we have earned a reputation for quality and unparralled customer service for kayaking here in Half Moon Bay.

HostNine Discount Coupon January 10, 2011, 5:02 PM

Hello. remarkable job. I did not expect this. This is a great story. Thanks!

Jailbreak iPhone 2G January 13, 2011, 7:44 PM

Wow, greet site !

Belgrade Hostel January 14, 2011, 3:47 AM

Wow, greet post !

blinds galore January 23, 2011, 7:18 PM

Refreshing and I appreciate the time you put into this article.very informative. I wish there were more websites like it. Nonetheless, I thought it was about time I posted.I am not that big of a reader to be candid but your sites pretty first-rate, keep it up I have your site favorited to check out additional stuff you post.

Zombie Outbreak Response Vehicle January 31, 2011, 10:46 AM

I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognized wiser than oneself.

Waneta Swaim February 11, 2011, 3:55 AM

Wow! Thank you! I constantly needed to write on my website something like that. Can I implement a portion of your post to my site?

Marylin Raposa March 12, 2011, 11:51 AM

Well this type of article is in truth worth searching for, great information for visitors and definitely shows quality writing. Its fantastic to have these types of reports around to maintain the information flow. Helping individuals who truly enjoy this, great work! Thanks once more for putting this up. I definitely loved every bit of it.

Alveo March 21, 2011, 5:43 AM

Very informative post. Thanks for taking the time to share your view with us.

Kredyty April 7, 2011, 12:26 AM

Awesome Post. I add this Post to my bookmarks.

Back to top >>