Let me start this essay by saying Iam sorry.
Why am I apologizing? Well now that you ask, I am not exactly sure. Iguess I am sorry for any feelings or perceptions that you may derive from thewords on this page? How would I rate this offense that I am apologizing for?Probably low on the severity scale, but that does not mean there isn’t any truthto this satirical offense. How many times have you apologized because anotherperson bumped into you in the hallway or you accidently cut off someone in thelineup at Tim Hortons? In Canada, we tend to live up to our reputation ofapologizing too much. In fact, because of how frequently Canadians spew theword “sorry”, Ontario passed a law in 2009 called the “Apology Act” whichstates that an apology does not “constitute or express” an admission of guiltin the court of law (Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2009). The over use of thewords “I’m sorry” can be examined from childhood and how children are raised,specifically the socialization of females in Canada and how it contributes toan unhealthy self esteem. There is a clear consensus within theliterature about sex differences regarding apologies- women apologize moreoften than men. Without further investigation, this verdict seems almostacceptable, but this doesn’t answer the question of why. Why do women apologizemore often than men? Holmes (1989) examined “sex differences in thedistribution of apologies” and found that through observation, it was observedthat approximately 75% of apologies were offered by females and 25% by males (198).
These results raise questions as to what is causing this divide in apologeticbehaviour. In a study conducted by Schumann and Ross (2010) measuring thedegree to which gender differences occur in everyday life and the reasons why, theyconcluded that men and women are equally likely to apologize for a behaviourcategorized as offensive (1651). This sheds some light as to why the ratio ofapologies offered by men and women are so divided in Holmes’ (1989) study.
Women perceive more of their behaviours as offensive than men do, but they bothoffer apologies for their perceived offenses approximately 81% of the time(Schumann & Ross, 2010, 1651). This equal proportion of apologies to perceivedoffenses eliminates the assumption that women are simply more apologetic thanmales. This raises our next question; why do women perceive more of theirbehaviours to be offensive than males? Women perceive their behaviours asoffensive more frequently than males because of how children are socializedfrom a young age. Children learn from a young age how to “function in sociallife and become aware of themselves as they interact with others” (Bryn, Roberts,Stroschein, & Lie, 2016, 96); children learn to adapt to their socialenvironment to satisfy their needs as individuals (103)1. Because children firstlearn to function in society from their families2, perception of offensivebehaviour is also taught in childhood. The Child Mind Institute (2017) explainsthat young girls are directed towards certain behaviours, but with conditionsthat undermine their individuation3; such as “be confident butnot conceited, be smart but no one likes a know-it-all, ambition is good buttrying to hard is bad, and be assertive but only if it doesn’t upset anyoneelse” (Child Mind Institute, 2017). It is no surprise that young girls grow upperceiving many of their behaviours to be offensive when they are taught to beguilty about everything they do.
In contrast, boys are often seen as moreskillful regarding individuation because they “are praised and encouraged whenthey show direct, confident behaviors—winning a game or climbing to the highestbranch” (Child Mind Institute, 2016). Boys aren’t taught to hide theirenthusiasm when winning a game; instead, they are told to be proud of their accomplishments.Girls, on the other hand, are taught to be sensitive to the feelings of the othersin the game who lost and to adapt their response accordingly. The Child MindInstitute (2017) states that, “womenare conditioned to be more attuned to—and responsible for—how their behavioraffects others. This empathetic awareness complicates behaviors associated withsuccess: winning, drive, and competition” (Child Mind Institute, 2016).
Whenfemales grow up in this kind of society, it causes them to feel guilty abouttheir behaviours and undermines their accomplishments. When females grow up feeling guiltyfor innocent behaviours, it leads to a low self esteem. Krista Roesler, apsychiatrist from Toronto, believes “over-apologizing is part of theexpectation of ‘femininity’ placed on females from a young age”(Kozicka, 2016). Self esteem is how we perceive ourselves and our abilities. TheAmerican Academy of Pediatrics states that one of the characteristics childrenneed to develop to have a healthy self esteem is a sense of personal competenceand pride.
By putting conditions on the high expectation of girls, it is hardfor them to succeed and can lead to “powerlessness and being incapable ofcontrolling the circumstances in their life” (American Academy of Pediatrics,2015). Therefore, the perception that women hold, that their behaviours areoffensive to others stems from an unhealthy self esteem. In conclusion, the commonly held beliefthat women apologize too much is true at face value, but under the surface,there is more to it. Women perceive more offenses from their behaviour than menand therefore apologize more often as a result. The reason women perceive theirbehaviours as offensive is because they are raised as children to behave withconditions that undermine their individuation.
These conditions lead todeveloping an unhealthy self esteem. If we want women to be assertive,confident, and expressive in their behaviours, we need to start by changing theconflicting messages we give our children. ReferencesBrym,R.
, Roberts, L. W., Strohschein, L., & Lie, J. (2016).
Sociology: Your compass for a newworld.Toronto,Canada: Nelson Education.Helpingyour child develop a healthy self esteem. (2015). American Academy of Pediatrics.Retrievedfrom https://www.
healthychildren.org/English/agesstages/gradeschool/Pages/Helping-Your-Child-Develop-A-Healthy-Sense-of-Self-Esteem.aspxHolmes,J. (1989). Sex differences and apologies: One aspect of communicativecompetence.
OxfordUniversity Press, 10(2), 194-213. https://doi.org/10.
1093/applin/10.2.194Kozicka,P. (2016). Sorry, not sorry: Do weapologize too much?.
Retrieved fromhttps://globalnews.ca/news/2729992/sorry-not-sorry-why-do-we-apologize-when-we-shouldnt/Queen’sPrinter for Ontario. (2009).
Apology Act.Retrievedfromhttps://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/09a03Schumann,K. and Ross, M. (2010).
Why women apologize more than men: Gender differencesinthresholds for perceiving offensive behaviour. Association for Psychological Science, 21(11), 1649-1655.DOI:10.1177/0956797610384150Whygirls apologize too much. (2017). ChildMind Institute.
Retrieved from https://childmind.org/article/why-girls-apologize-too-much/ 1This process is socialization.2Primary socialization.3 “Oneof the key tasks of adolescence is what’s called ‘individuation,’ or theprocess of becoming a unique individual” (Child Mind Institute, 2016).