Saturday, November 2, 2013

Superfluous Apologies

A recent article by Alison Wood Brooks, Harvard Business School, discussed existing apology research, which has conceptualized apologies as a tool to rebuild relationships following a transgression. She also included information from four studies that discussed something called superfluous apologies, defined as expression of regret for an undesirable circumstance for which the apologizer is clearly not responsible (e.g., heavy traffic, bad weather). This strategy was found to demonstrate empathetic concern for the victim and increase that person’s trust in the apologizer. My understanding of the difference between the words “I’m sorry” (you personally contributed to the event or mishap) versus “I regret” (you are demonstrating empathetic concern for what happened although you are not culpable), plays into this in my opinion. Women sometimes overuse the term “I’m sorry.” Therefore I reserve “I’m sorry” for an apology related to my own actions. I am becoming increasingly comfortable, however, using the words “I regret” to express empathy for an adverse or unfortunate event to which I did not contribute. Empathy is good as reinforced by these studies.

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