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Research we WISH we had done!

We all apologize at some time or another.  Usually, Patrick is apologizing to Zina but that’s another story entirely!

Why are apologies so difficult?  We’ve all seen politicians, bless their little hearts, apologize by saying I regret…. which are technically words in the English language but not really an apology.  Neither is I’m sorry if you were offended, I’m sorry, but…., or our favorite, You started it!  It’s hard for all of us.  We feel bad, don’t know what to say, or avoid it altogether.  Time passes, scars never heal, and we wonder why our relationships aren’t as deep as we wish they would be.

A research team led by Sarah Doyle at the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona took a fascinating look at apologies in the workplace – where we spend most of our waking hours.  She and her colleagues were curious as to how apologies differ depending on the gender of the apologizer.

The team began by drawing on previous research to differentiate “masculine language” from “feminine language.”  Masculine language was considered to be more forceful and insistent.  Feminine language showed evidence of more supportive wording that was warm and kindhearted.  The researchers then conducted four separate studies beginning with X, formerly known as Twitter, where they explored celebrity apologies.  They then surveyed over 1,000 adults in situations ranging from mistakes and apologies by accountants and nurses. 

Over all four studies Doyle and her team discovered that counter-stereotypical apologies were consistently perceived as more effective whether it be from men (8.2% more effective) or women (9.7% more effective). As Doyle noted, men and women weren’t viewed unfavorably when they gave more gender stereotypical apologies.  They were simply more effective when they adopted the style of the opposite gender. Amazing.

Sure wish we would have done this research!

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