I’m noticing how much women apologize. Generally speaking. Anecdotally, I’ve noticed this. (It’s j-science.)

At the beginning of 2021, standing at a personal crossroads, I wrote this down on a piece of paper and put it on the bulletin board above my desk. “I want to lead a less apologetic and explanatory life.” I wrote it out of sheer frustration. Somewhere along the way, I’d started apologizing for everything, whether or not I was at fault. I apologized for the traffic conditions, for suggesting coffee after the shops were closed, for having a contrary opinion. More than once, I apologized for the weather.

Over the last year, I have become less apologetic, I notice it most when I’m writing. A great deal of my communication happens in email, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve typed and deleted the word “sorry” from my notes. What it does, when you strike the word sorry, is force you to better characterize your feelings. For example, I’m not sorry that I can’t do this job for less money, I “wish you the best of luck in finding someone who meets your needs.” Another example: I’m not sorry I didn’t respond sooner, “I’ve been so busy, but I’m finally getting a free minute to sit down and talk to you.”

In preparing to write this post, I did a search to see if my observation is even true. Do women apologize more frequently than men? I didn’t find anything definitive or scientific, but I did find this wonderful article in the Cornell Daily Sun by Jane P. Riccobono, titled “Apology Not Accepted.” She too finds women (including herself) to be more apologetic than men and gives some interesting reasons as to why she thinks that’s so. (I agree with her observations.)

In the article, she talks about our tendency to apologize for accidentally being in the way, or bumping into someone. This is funny, because when I started paying attention to the circumstances under which I tend to apologize reflexively, being in the way and bumping into people were definitely my downfalls. I started saying excuse me instead (which is, of course, the more appropriate response).

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