You've probably heard that women apologize more often than men. Well, studies show this is in fact true. On average, women say they're sorry more times in their lives than men do.

And while there's a lot of chatter about men being too bull-headed to say they're sorry, the reason men apologize less might not have anything to do with stubbornness.

Instead, studies show men and women have very different ideas about what type of behavior actually constitutes an apology-worthy offense.  

Women's Views About Wrong Doing

When men think they've done something wrong, they're just as likely as women to apologize. But, it seems women have a lower threshold for behavior that constitutes an apology.

A 2010 study published in Psychological Science examined how men and women apologize differently. In one study, university students kept an online diary for 12 days documenting whether they apologized or did something they thought required an apology.

They also kept track of how often they thought others owed them an apology. Both men and women apologized 81 percent of the time when they thought their actions were offensive.

But, women reported committing more offenses. Women were also more likely to report being victims of wrongdoing.

In a second study, undergrads rated how severe they thought a particular offense was. For example, they imagined they woke their friend up late at night. And disturbing their friend's sleep caused the friend to do poorly on an interview the following day.

Women rated these types of offenses as much more serious than men. Women were also more likely to say the friend deserved an apology.

Why It Matters

It's not that one way of thinking is right and the other is wrong--it's just different. And the more men and women understand one another in their personal and professional relationships, the better they can work together.

Women may want to consider how often they apologize. Constantly saying things like, "Sorry I didn't respond to your text message right away," or "I'm sorry I didn't get back to you about that email," may reinforce the notion that you've done something wrong.

That could cause you to experience excessive guilt and toxic self-blame. And it may destroy your confidence, which could in turn lead to more apologies. 

On the other hand, men may want to consider how their behavior affects those around them. Are there times when you might have hurt someone--albeit unintentional--and an apology may be warranted?

It takes a certain amount of mental strength to admit when you're wrong. Refusing to acknowledge your mistakes could harm your relationships. Apologizing more often might be the key to maintaining healthier relationships over the long-term.

So rather than assume what your partner, co-worker, friend or relative is experiencing, talk about it. That the other person may not view the event the same way you do and you may want to factor that in when you consider whether an apology is warranted.

Published on: Mar 26, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.